Huaquan Kung Fu, also know as China-style boxing system, is a style of Long Fist Kung Fu (Changquan). It is believed to have originated in the Former Song Dynasty (420?479 AD) around the Hua Shan (Hua Mountain) area of Shaanxi Province. There are written legends from the Kaiyuan reign (713?741 AD) of the Tang Dynasty (618?906 AD) about an ancient warrior by the name of Cai Mao, a skilled fighter and swordsman of noble birth, who created the system in Shandong Province. Apparently Cai Mao had killed an enemy from Chang”an and had to go into hiding to escape the family’s wrath.
The art was further developed some 400 years later by the brothers Cai Tai and Cai Gang who were descendants of Cai Mao. Cai Tai and Cai Gang of Jining in Shandong Province; were alleged using the Hua Quan style in public competitions. It is because of this historical record that many credit these two brothers with preserving Hua Quan as we know it today. However, it was Cai Wanzhi of Jining during the reign of Jaiqing during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) who is credited with the finishing touches on Hua Quan who described the system in his 16th century book “The Secrets of Huaquan”.
This book combines the original and revised martial techniques and philosophy of the “three pure essences”, or treasures, of Spirit (Shen), Intrinsic Energy (Chi), and Internal force (Jing). Therefore, this specific style of Kung Fu is sometimes referred to as “Kung Fu of Essence.” It is also known as Glorious/Magnificent Boxing, China Fist, or “The Fist of Hua Mountain.” (Hua, or “Wah”- meaning Glorious, is also synonymous for the word China/Chinese). In modern day Hua Quan is considered to be one of the five major styles of Long Fist Gong Fu. It may be important to note that due to its translation and spelling, there is a different style of Hua Quan meaning “Flower Fist.” (“Meihuaquan”).
Hua Quan is an old style with a huge repertoire of techniques and forms. It stands as a complete system of martial art. There are traditionally 48 hand sets to master in the system – 18 primary forms, 18 secondary forms (sparring sets) and 12 advanced forms referred to as roads, as well as, Chin Na, long and short weapons sets and specialized training methods. As the style spread throughout the region, it became named after its place of origin- the Hua Shan area around Shaanxi Province. A highly developed style, there is an old saying in a form of a poem that basically states “knowing the 48 hand sets of Hua Quan, one can travel anywhere under the heavens.”
In classical and contemporary works of literary fiction and cinema (Wuxia stories), Hua Quan is renowned for its swordplay skill. Historically the temples and monasteries on Hua Shan are quite ancient and the monks were renowned masters of Neidan, (Internal Alchemy) and the mountain was a designation for many martial artists, giving up common earthly life. Hua Shan is 1 of China’s 5 Sacred Peaks of Taoism. According to sources Zhang San-feng, the Taoist sage and patriarch of Taijiquan studied at the monasteries of Hua Shan after his time at Shaolin in Song Shan and before retiring to Wudang Shan. The lesser-known internal martial-art style of Liu He Ba Fa was also developed on Hua Shan by the Taoist sage Chen Tuan (871-989) during the Song Dynasty (960-1280 AD.) It is important to note that the Hua Shan area played an important role for self-cultivation and Chinese Martial Arts development, like many of the other mountain regions (Song Shan, Er-Mei, Wudang, etc.).
Hua Quan is characterized by its smooth, well-connected movements and its techniques are executed with great pace from a solid foundation.
Practitioner’s breath deeply to spread air flows throughout the body to develop external/internal strength and energy for fighting, in particular cun jing (inch energy). Its footwork and hand technique are based on the Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang. Hua Quan is considered a Traditional Northern Kung Fu style, and is a perfect example of a “classical” long-arm style, although there is no shortage of mid-close range techniques. The Hua Quan 24 Essentials rests on the principles of four hits (each category being quite extensive), 8 methods and 12 patterns. Eleven basic aspects of practice include use of shoulder, back, hip, knee, leg, foot, arm, elbow, fist, palm and claw.
Hua Quan is also said to have the energies of five animals, although different from the “Shaolin Five Animals” system, which are animal imitation forms. The energies of the Hua Quan 5 Animals are: Ape, Tiger, Dragon, Leopard, and Eagle. The older the styles such as Hua Quan, the energies are used to develop and internalize the essence of the movement creating proper power, technique and form.
References and sources for this Huaquan Kung Fu Article
The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World 15 Sept 2008
by Chris Crudelli