By: Miao Ganjie
By Miao Ganjie
(Originally published 1936. Brennan Translations, December 2015. 61 pages.)
Review by Christopher Dow
Baji Boxing, or Kai Men Baji Quan (“open gate eight extremities fist”), is a Chinese martial art that utilizes explosive, short-range power. It is well known for its elbow and shoulder strikes and the way the fists, held loosely and slight open, are used to strike downward in a rake-like fashion. Its earliest-recorded teacher was Wu Zhong (1712–1802), and other famous exponents included Huo Dian Ge, bodyguard to Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China; Li Chenwu, bodyguard to Mao Zedong; and Liu Yunqiao, a secret agent for the nationalist Kuomintang and instructor of the Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguards. Thanks to these three men, Baji quan has acquired a reputation as the "bodyguard style.” (1)
Baji is a fierce and direct style characterized by hard and powerful strikes. In his preface to the book, Xu Zhen likens Baji to Xingi, “though with far more hardness and fierceness.” Interestingly enough for such a hard style, Baji emphasizes the interplay of yin and yang and the connectivity between the torso and the hips and waist in almost the same way that the far softer Tai Chi does.
Author Miao wastes no time on expository text but launches his attack right off. You don’t even learn exactly which branch of Baji he practices. If you want to know more about Baji, don’t bother with this book but check out the Baji page on Wikipedia. And if you want to learn Baji, don’t bother with this book, either. The textual descriptions are adequate enough for this sort of material, but the photos are of such poor quality that it often is nearly impossible to discern what the movements they depict actually look like. Even translator Paul Brennan notes how lousy they are.
But this book does have some claim to fame as one of the earliest books on Baji. So if there are any practitioners of the “bodyguard style” out there, you might want to take a look.
(1) "Bajiquan." Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bajiquan.