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Fanziquán (Chinese: ???; literally “Rotating fist”) is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes offense and defense with the hands.
Its movements have been described as: “Two fists are fast like the falling rain drops, and fast like a snapping whip”. Fanziquan routines are usually quite short and very fast.
Fanziquán is a source of many other modern styles like Eagle Claw.
Until at least the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), Fanziquán was known as Bashanfan (Chinese: ???; literally “8 flash tumbles”), or “8 evasive tumbles” and in the Qing Dynasty as BafanMén (Chinese: ???; literally “8 Rotations School”).
In accordance to the Bafanquan manuals, during the Ming dynasty a Master Wang Zhiquan had been taught the boxing by a mountainous wanderer. It is said that Master Wang was an accomplished warrior but had become injured in battle in a remote part of the area in what is currently Shandong province. It was here that the wanderer had assisted with Master Wang’s injuries and was taught the methods of Bafanquan to improve his already good martial skills.
The style then passed to down various generations in the Northern provinces such as Henan, Hebei and Shandong. During the Qing dynasty one of the most famous exponents of the style was Master Li Gongran from Xiong county in Hebei province. During the time he became a famed boxer and it was claimed that from Nanjing to Beijing, All Fanzi under heaven belongs to Li Gong (Grandmaster Li). This indicated how key he was to the spread and development of the style. Hi Son Li Erlou and disciple Sunning county’s Feng Zhenyuan taught the style in Sunning county and their students setup many Security Logistics Bureaus.
In modern times, Fanziquán is often taught in conjunction with Chuojiao, not unlike how Xíngyìquán and Baguàzhang are often taught together. The routines of Chuojiao, with its kicks, wide open stances and focus on hard power, were known as Martial Routines and those of Fanziquán, with their more compact movements combining soft and hard power, were known as Scholarly Routines, which is why the Chuojiao Fanziquán combination is known as Wen Wu or “Martial-Scholar”.
Both Fanziquán and Chuojiao 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 old enough that 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 Hebei Province in Raoyang, where he taught Fanziquán, which emphasizes the hands, to the Wang family and Chuojiao, which emphasizes the feet, to the Duan family. During practice, the families would exchange techniques.
The complete system of Fanziquan of Hebei province is rarely practiced today. The Dongbei Style of Fanziquan is the most popular and was also the basis on which the Modern Wushu Fanziquan 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 has been practiced by his descendants, the Eagle Claw style which is a derivative of Fanziquan 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 Fanziquan. The Mianzhang style (Duanquan) was combined with Hebei Fanzi to create a new Style Mianzhang Fanzi.
Throughout history, BaFanMen’s techniques have been admired by many masters and as a result it is often recognized as ‘Muquan’ or Mother Fist in representing how essential it is to the Chinese Martial Arts.