Fan Zi Quan (Chinese: literally “Rotating fist”) is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes offence and defence with the hands. Its movements have been described as:
Two fists are fast like the falling raindrops, and fast like a snapping whip.
Fan Zi Quan routines are usually quite short and very fast. It is a source of many other modern styles like Eagle Claw.
The most famous practitioner of Fan Zi Quan is the martial arts actor Jet Li. Fan Zi Quan is a kicking system that contains “hard” and “soft” techniques. The routines and forms concentrate on hand techniques, punches, jumps and a variety of flowing and tumbling punches, with many coming from unusual angles. A stereotypical Fan Zi Quan routine involves quick combinations of defensive and offensive techniques ending with a short flurry of punches towards the opponents’ body. It also includes a number of uppercuts similar to those found in Western Boxing. These uppercuts are delivered if the opponent closes his guard and crouches down in a protective stance; and are followed by head punches and lower body punches. There are two common branches of Fan Zi Quan practiced today, one in northeast of China and the other in the northwest. Although they both bear a striking resemblance to each other, the latter concentrates on power coming from the waist, whereas the other focuses on power combined with fast techniques.
Until at least the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), Fan Zi Quan was known as Bashanfan (Chinese: literally “8 flash tumbles”), or “8 evasive tumbles” and in the Qing Dynasty as BafanMen (Chinese: literally “8 Rotations School”).
According to the Bafanquan manuals, during the Ming dynasty a master named Wang Zhiyuan, had been taught the boxing by a mountain wanderer. It is said that Master Wang was an accomplished warrior but had become injured in battle in a remote part of what is currently Shandong province. There, the wanderer assisted with Master Wang’s injuries and instructed him in the methods of Bafanquan to improve his already good martial skills. The style then passed down through various generations in the Northern provinces such as Henan, Hebei and Shangdong. During the Quing dynasty, one of the most famous exponents of the style was Master Li Gongran from Xiong county in Hebei province. During that time he became a famed boxer, and it was claimed that “from Nanjing to Beijin, all Fanzi under heaven belongs to Li Gong (Grandmaster Li)”. This indicated how key he was to the spread and development of the style. His son Li Erlou, and disciple Feng Zhenyuan, taught the style in Sunning county. Their students founded many “Security Logistics Bureaus”.
In modern times, Fan Zi Quan is often taught in conjunction with Chuo Jiao, not unlike how Xingyiquan and Baguazhang are often taught together. The routines of Chuo Jiao, with its kicks, wide open stances and focus on hard power, were known as Martial Routines and those of Fan Zi Quan, with their more compact movements combining soft and hard power, were known as Scholarly Routines, which is why the Chuo Jiao/Fan Zi Quan combination is known as Wen Wu or Martial-Scholar.
Both Fan Zi Quan and Chuo Jiao are associated with the 12th century Song Dynasty general Yue Fei, and the association between the two may date that far back. However, as a legendary figure, Yue Fei has had many martial arts attributed to him. Nonetheless, the association between the two is very old.
By the mid-19th century, Zhao Canyi, a general in the failed Taiping Rebellion, was a master of both styles. After the failure of the rebellion, Zhao went into seclusion in Raoyang, Hebei Province, where he taught Fan Zi 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 complete system of Fan Zi Quan of Hebei province is rarely practiced today. The Dongbei Style of Fan Zi Quan is the most popular and was also the basis on which the Modern Wushu Fan Zi Quan routines have been based. Elements or parts of Old BafanMen have been spread under many banners. Liu DeKuan taught a set of Ba Fan Shou in Beijing which his descendants have practiced. The Eagle Claw style, which is a derivative of Fan Zi Quan, includes a set of Xingquan and Lianquan, which are said to be the essence of the style and are based on some parts of BafanMen. The Ma Family Tongbei System of North Western China includes the Dongbei variants of Fan Zi Quan. The Mianzhang style (Duanquan) was combined with Hebei Fanzi to create the style Mianzhang Fanzi. Throughout history, many masters have admired BafanMen’s techniques and as a result it is often recognized as Muquan, or Mother Fist, in representing how essential it is to the Chinese Martial Arts.
The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World 15 Sept 2008
by Chris Crudelli