Very little is known about the origin of Di Tang Quan, but it is thought to have become popular during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). Di Tang Quan, meaning “Ground Tumbling Boxing” in Mandarin, is identified by its acrobatic movements of flips, somersaults, twists, tumbles and falls. However, what separates Di Tang Quan from a normal acrobatic routine is that every jump, flip, twist or somersault contains a surprise kick, punch, throw or grab.
Since the time of its origin, this martial art has spread throughout China and has been incorporated into other martial arts styles.
The art also has unusual body conditioning methods, one of which involves the practitioner repeatedly jumping backwards up as high as possible and then landing on their back. This may seem unorthodox, but this exercise is crucial to the understanding of Chinese martial arts and students are encouraged to practice this exercise rigorously. When a martial artists body receives impact, they must exhale to contract the muscle and constrict the rib cage, emptying the lungs of air to help protect the vital organs from damage and to prevent them from being winded. Even though many would consider this training method to be seriously dangerous and damaging, it is said that, if repeatedly practiced properly, the body should instinctively exhale, relax and allow the impact to spread through the body without injuring the practitioner.
Although Di Tang Quan exists as a traditional art, other versions of it were unknown to the Chinese modern Wushu instructors of the 1970s; as a result, a new version of Di Tang Quan was formed based on the tumbling techniques of monkey and drunken styles, but without the characteristic monkey or drunken movements.
Traditional versions of Di Tang Quan are still found incorporated as parts of other styles, such as in Chuo Jiao, or as separate martial arts, such as Fujian Gou Quan (dog style). In the traditional styles, there is less emphasis on tumbling and more emphasis on defending and attacking while falling on the ground. In modern Wushu, the new Di Tang Quan remains a common style used in competition today.
The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World 15 Sept 2008
by Chris Crudelli