Sunday, June 06, 2010

day 280: history! ju quan (ba tang quan)

  • history
  • ju quan
this post is for Sunday, May 30. since this was Ching-Chieh's last day before she left for Taiwan, we decided to focus on just ju quan, so we could finish it off and review everything one last time. it was more review for her, since today was the 1st time that i covered lines 7-8.

i should make some clarifications to correct my previous posts on ju quan:
  • it turns out that there are only 8 lines, not 10; and
  • it turns out that ju quan and ba tang quan are really the same things, with the difference being that ju quan was a simplified version of ba tang quan that was considered more appropriate for the Taiwanese military (at least, more appropriate in terms of something that could be taught in the course of basic training for hand-to-hand combat and which could be performed for parade ground purposes).
i'm including the following videos that show what we've done:
i should provide some background comments to explain ju quan. based on what i've been able to gather from Sifu and Ching-Chieh (i missed a number of classes, and so didn't participate in all the conversations they had on the subject, leaving me to assemble the background piece-meal from discussions as we've gone on).

first, there are reasons why ju quan stopped being taught to the Taiwanese military. Sifu said that we could see it for ourselves as we learned it. he noted the following:
  1. even though the movements look basic, there are a lot of subtleties in ba tang quan--subtleties which unfortunately were glossed over, omitted, ignored, or downright suppressed during basic training, either because military instructors didn't understand it or recruits couldn't get it (Sifu said that he learned it from Liu Yun Qiao before entering the military, and was shocked when he saw what the drill instructors were teaching and what the soldiers were doing). these subtleties are very important, as without them the effectiveness of the techniques are greatly reduced, and ju quan is left to become nothing more than a force-on-force brute strength martial art (which defeats the entire point of learning it).
  2. ju quan, because of the subtleties in ba tang quan, is just too complicated to be taught to recruits in basic training, especially in a mass setting (with hundreds or thousands of conscripts) with limited time (a few weeks). to really learn it properly takes personal attention with a dedicated time--neither of which is plentiful in a military environment focused on producing as many soldiers in as short as time as possible.
  3. ju quan was replaced by other martial arts, predominately tae kwon do and judo (or some combination thereof), largely because they are more popular in Taiwan and because they're easier (and faster) to teach to large numbers of conscripts within the confines of a few weeks. at the very least, the Taiwanese military seemed to think so, since they discontinued ju quan after only a few years.
second, all of the above videos are a reconstruction, based on the articles from the Wutan Hall journal and Sifu's memory. ju quan was only taught in the Taiwanese military during the late 1960s to early 1970s, and has disappeared since then. Sifu says he doesn't think it's been done in 40 years.

Sifu commented that he can see the reasons why (see the above comments regarding a military setting with large numbers of students and limited time), but that this doesn't mean that ju quan/ba tang quan is irrelevant or that it should be discarded. in his opinion, it has value (he believes a lot of value), but it was just applied incorrectly in a context that was inappropriate under conditions that were incompatible to the art form. when taught individually (or with a few students) in conditions allowing more personal attention with more time for detail, it is a martial arts style with many things to offer.

of course, given that it hasn't been done in so long (i.e., it's been forgotten), this means that what we're doing is essentially historical research, and a revival of a lost art form. you could even call it a historical re-enactment. Ching-Chieh is treating it as such, since she's using it as a basis for a dance project she's doing in Taiwan. Sifu says we're now a part of history, which makes me feel i'm on a mission to preserve the pieces of the past--and i guess that's one aspect of what we're really doing with TCMA. history! so enjoy!


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Adrian said...


Really great information. Would this form have any bearing on what you and sifu are trying to reconstruct:

Just a thought. This form is called Chung I Chuan. This VHS is available for $3.00 at MartailArtsMart ( Thanks.