In this article, I would like to introduce a style of baguazhang not so well-known in the west: Shi style baguazhang, named after its founder, Shi Jidong. Shi style baguazhang is known for its many and varied leg techniques and rare weapons sets. The following article is taken from this web page.
“M Shi Jidong (1837-1909), styled Shi Zhenbang, was from Xiaozhai village in Ji county in Hebei. Because he was the sixth child in his family, people called him Shi Liu (six). He was honest and upright and a fine speaker. By nature he was a peacemaker; whenever there was some internal dispute, he would intervene and make peace. He ran a sawmill in the east of Beijing. Whenever there were labour disputes in the timber industry, he would be regularly called in to act as a mediator.
In his youth, he studied tantui with the famous master, ‘Iron legs’ Qin Fengyi. He was painstaking in his training – he would kick the 10 li (5km) to and from M Qin’s house. In just a few years, he learnt the whole art from M Qin. Later on, Yin Fu started studying under M Qin, which is how Shi and Yin became friends. After M Qin’s death, Yin became Dong Haichuan’s disciple. When Shi found out, he also bowed to Dong as his master. Because Yin had entered the door earlier, he was Dong’s senior disciple, with Ma Weiqi second and Shi Jidong third. His ‘bagua name’ was Shi Liqing. At that time, Dong’s martial prowess was already well-known in the capital. His art, baguazhang, became particularly known for its agile footwork and rapid changes. Martial arts experts from all over the country came to challenge Dong, but none managed to best him. Prince Su once inscribed a plaque in his honour, writing ‘First among the Qing empire’ (da qing yi ren).
Shi was dedicated and painstaking in his training, training year-round whatever the weather, and habitually walked the circle with his knees bent so that his buttocks were lower than his knees. He often trained until beads of sweat poured off him. He was a skilled fighter, especially his leg attacks, which were almost impossible to anticipate. Other martial artists gave him the nickname ‘zei tui shi liu’ (sneaky legs Shi Six) and his kungfu brothers all admired his skill. M Dong was fond of Shi too, and took Shi’s wife as his adopted daughter. In Dong’s old age, Shi took Dong into his home and looked after him personally. M Dong treated him like his own son-in-law. M Dong was moved by Shi’s devotion and passed on his art unreservedly. After M Dong’s passing, Shi organised his funeral and erected a stele to commemorate him.
Every morning, M Shi would practice at the foot of the eastern city walls. In his house, he hid a slingshot in the rafters. He was extremely accurate in its use, never missing his shot. A band of robbers hidden in the hills near Beijing were plundering the caravans that passed by. Local officials were unable to capture the robbers and invited M Shi to assist. M Shi captured 11 of the leaders and razed the robbers’ camp. The Qing government awarded Shi with ‘liu pin ding dai'(honorary rank of the 6th grade), causing his fame to spread. One day, a master of iron palm came to visit. Shi and his disciples greeted him at the door and led him into the house. The iron palm master, intending to show off his skills, brushed his hands against a stele next to the door. The students behind him gawked at the stele: the master’s touch had crushed all its bricks. Afterwards, the two masters introduced themselves, and the visitor asked to cross hands. M Shi ordered his student Yang Rongben to accept the challenge. Yang assented, saluted his opponent and took up a ready position. The visitor attacked with a straight punch, only for Yang to spin round with a baibu and sweep the man’s leg’s out from under him, felling him. M Shi bade his students to help the man up. The man went on his way, ashamed. Afterwards, the eyewitnesses told M Shi about the incident with the stele. M Shi said ‘These methods [like iron palm] to increase striking power and toughen up the skin have their place.It is difficult to win against such an opponent unless we rely on skill [rather than power].’
M Shi was involved in many such contests, there were too many to mention. In 1909, M Shi fell severely ill and decided to return to his hometown. His students accompanied him to the rail station. Back then, medicine wasn’t as advanced as it is now, M Shi was unable to be saved. M Shi had no sons, but took his nephew as his inheritor. Thousands of mourners came to M Shi’s funeral. Prior to his illness, M Shi was one of the organisers of Tianjin’s Wushu Hui, whose purpose was to strengthen the physique of the chinese people, and urged his friends and disciples to join. Although in the end, for various reasons the Wushu Hui never got founded, M Shi’s patriotism was admirable.
In his teaching, M Shi emphasised martial morality (Wu De) and was very strict. The material that M Shi passed down included bagua 64 palms, as well as various kicking methods and weapons. Amongst his Beijing disciples, the more well-known were Han Fushun, Zhang Dexiu (aka Zhang Shanting), Yu Qingjin, Yang Rongben, Shou Shan, etc. M Shi’s bagua was called ‘East City bagua’ because he lived in the east of Beijing.
In terms of palm shape, the characteristic palm shape of Shi style bagua is the ‘sickle’ palm, with the index and middle fingers held together, the ‘tiger’s mouth’ [the gap between the thumb and index finger] held open and the other two fingers are slightly twisted inwards. The stepping consists of mud wading step [tang ni bu] and the chicken step. Shi style lays stress on the ‘5 shapes and 5 postures’ [wu xing wu shi] and the ‘8 characters and 8 methods’ [ba zi ba fa]. Shi style excels at the use of the legs, making its footwork and kicking particularly speedy and agile.
DI ZHAO LONG
The 4th generation Shi style inheritor and founder of the Shi Style Baguazhang Research Association Di Zhaolong was born on August 16th 1909 and passed away on February 16th 2002, aged 94. He was born into a prominent family in Liyang in Jiangsu province. He was a weak and sickly youth, but through the practice of Shaolin gongfu under the well-known master Zhang Fengxiang from Cangzhou he gradually became healthy and strong.
In 1933 while Di was touring Zhang Gong Cave in Yixing city in Jiangsu, he had the good fortune to meet Yang Rongben, a senior disciple of Shi Jidong from Laizhou in Shandong province who had been an imperial bodyguard during the end days of the Qing dysnasty. After the fall of the Qing, Yang was initiated as a monk at Mt Baohua in Nanjing. M Di studied from Yang Rongben for 8 years, first at Hai Hui Temple in Yixing and later at Tai Hua Temple in Zhangzhu. M Di practiced bagua every day regardless of the weather even into his old age. Fellow students of M Di from that period include Wang Yongchang, Cao Runting and the famous artist Peng Ximing, who later moved to Hong Kong and was 96 at the time of writing. M Di was honest, modest and passionate about martial arts his entire life. He enjoyed great prestige in the martial arts community, and advocated the coupling of wushu and fitness. Between 1958 and 2001, M Di participated and won prizes in numerous wushu galas. He was also invited to be a coach or honorary chairman of many kungfu schools and even by the Singapore Wushu Association. M Di did his utmost to spread baguazhang. After his retirement in 1976, he taught bagua all over China: in his life, he taught more than 10,000 students, with students coming from abroad to learn from him. The routines that M Di taught included bagua 64 palms, Zhi Lu Quan (Point-the-way fist), Zhi Lu Jian (point-the-way sword), Pian San Liu Sabre, Zhan Shen Qiang (body-sticking spear), Qi Xing Gan (seven star staff), Ba Mu Qiang (8 mother spear), Jiu Zi Xun Mu Jian (9 sons seeking mother sword), Youshen Lianhuan Ziwu Yuanyang yue (swimming body deerhorn knives), Ji Zhao Rui (Chicken’s claw elbow knives, also called rooster knives), Longxing Shuang Bishou (dragon-shape double daggers), Yang style taiji and xingyiquan. M Di was also skilled in medicine and qigong, and worked in Liyang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, where he treated innumerable patients.
M Di’s book “Wudang Michuan Baguazhang”, which he finished writing in 1996, has been published by the People’s Sports Publishing House.