Chuo Jiao or Chuojiao meaning “Poking Foot” in Mandarin, originated in Northern China. The Chinese martial arts saying, “Hands of the south and legs of the north and even the gods will fear you”, commonly referred to the northern leg system of Chuo Jiao. Chuojiao is one of the most ancient of traditional Chinese martial arts that dates back to at least the Song Dynasty (960-1279), given such a long history it is difficult to assess its exact origin accurately. One of the legends of its origin mentions that a Daoist wanderer named Deng Liang who created the style commencing with 18 basic kicking/footwork actions (some research suggests leg actions from the ancient Chinese football game of Cuju which was popular in the Song Dynasty) and then deriving 108 variations according to combinations developed from the Abacus that became the essential components of the style. At the end of the Song Dynasty the style was nicknamed Fist of the Heroes, Fist of the Knights and Kicking Fists. In the Song Dynasty, traditional Chinese martial arts were divided into 4 great sects : Chi , Bo , Chuan, Wen and ten great boxing styles : Hong, Liu, Zhi, Ming, Mo, Tan, Zha, Pao. Hua and Long. Chuojiao is often referred to as belonging to that of the Wen Sect and of the Zhi boxing style, therefore often referred to as Wenjiaquan or Jiu Zhizi. The Wen family were well known fighters at the time owning many businesses including the escorting of valuables – security logistics bureaus.
Chuojiao is a Chinese martial art style that uses empty hand, internal theory and traditional weapons. With tactical and distinctive boxing methods, powerfully deadly kicking techniques, dynamic Shenfa (Body methods) and advanced ground fighting (Ditangquan), Chuojiao is one of the most comprehensive traditional chinese martial arts systems. Chuojiao was developed through countless generations in war and rebellion, designed for battle. Substantial training in weaponry and combat strategy is included throughout.
It is believed that this ancient martial art evolved during the Song Dynasty (960-1127) and became popular during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). A well-known martial artist for his abilities and weaponry, Wu Bin Lou, popularized the art in Beijing during the 1920s. Wu Bin Lou believed Chuo Jiao came from the Wang Family Boxing style of the Song Dynasty (960–1279).
The full name of Chuojiao has sometimes been referred to as ‘Jiufan Yubu Yuanyang Gougua Lianhuan Xuankong Chuojiao’ or translated as resisiting/wardoff Step Mandarin Ducks Hooking and Hanging Continuouos airborne Piercing Feet. Jiu fan refer to the two Wen and Wu Tangzi sets with 9 routines each. Yu Bu is a classical leg/stepping method in Chuojiao. Gougua lianhuan refer to another classical method but more so to the mutual interchange between movements as elaborated by the mandarin duck kicks. Xuankong refers to the kicking into the air and Chuojiao means Piercing Foot. Chuojiao is also deemed to be a representative of the ancient Wenjia boxing which had been recognised as been one of the best martial arts during the time of Chang Naizhou (1724-1783) in his records. It is truely representative of Northern martial arts and requires a lot of effort to practice, since it was created by so many warriors and has absorbed so many different types of combat methods it is also one of the largest systems of martial arts in China. There used to be a saying “Zhili Chu, Shandong Cha’ which referred to the most effective martial arts in Zhili province being Chuojiao, and that of neighbouring Shandong as Cha Quan. However Chuojiao was also very protected and very rarely taught to outsiders completely.
Chuo Jiao is accredited to Deng Liang, who is said to have created the style on the basis of the 18 basic foot movements. He developed the basics based on the calculations of the Chinese abacus to form a sequence of foot movements that incorporated 108 tricks.
Legend has it that he later taught the monk Zhou Tong the style, who later passed it on to his pupil General Yue Fei.
Some of the outlaws who appear in the famous novel The Water Margin, such as Wu Song, were experts in this style; this is why Chuo Jiao Quan was alternately known as the “Water Margin Outlaw style”. It is also known as Yuanyang Tui or “Mandarin Duck Leg.” In The Water Margin’s 28th chapter, entitled “Drunken Wu Song beats Jiang Menshen innkeeper”, it mentions that Wu Song uses the following moves: “step of nephrite ring, leg of mandarin duck”.
Feng Keshan, a general in the failed Taiping Rebellion of the early 19th century, was a Chuo Jiao Fanzi Quan master. After the failure of the rebellion, Feng went into seclusion with two other experts, Tang Youyi in Hebei Province in Raoyang, where he taught Fanzi Quan, which emphasizes the hands, to the Wang family and Chuo Jiao, which emphasizes the feet, to the Duan family. During practice, the families would exchange techniques.
The styles coiling method relies on the use of patterns and routines in conjunction with stretching and isometric strengthening exercises. Some highlight the similarities between Chuo Jiao and Xing Yi Quan, this is possibly due to a Wen Quan Master, who may have developed both styles.
Although rarely taught outside of China, Chuo Jiao is a fascinating and elegant style that concentrates on kicks from unusual angles, sweeps, blocks and throws. It sometimes includes a series of quick, straight-line punches aimed at the centre of the opponents’ body. The style is physically demanding and requires strong flexible legs. Hands and feet work well together for better advantage and longer reach. Its strikes are short but fatal. Hardness is the core of Chuo Jiao, which it combines with suppleness.
The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World 15 Sept 2008
by Chris Crudelli