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Zui Quan (Chinese: 醉拳; pinyin: Zuì Quán, drunken fist) is a general name for all the styles of Chinese martial arts that imitate a drunkard. It is an ancient style and its origins are mainly traced back to the famous Buddhist and Daoist sects. The Buddhist style is related to the Shaolin temple while the Daoist style is based on the Daoist tale of the drunken Eight Immortals. Zui quan has the most unusual body movements among all styles of Chinese martial arts. Hitting, grappling, locking, dodging, feinting, ground and aerial fighting and all other unsophisticated methods of combat are incorporated.
Zui quan features
The technical features of zui quan are based on imitating a drunkard. The main body method is called sloshing, which refers to "Hollow Body, Wine Belly" concept, as though the body is hollow and the lower abdomen (丹田; dantian) is filled with wine (instead of Qi), which travels through the body adding power to the movements. The postures are driven by weight and momentum of the whole body, staggering around, creating sudden power from awkward positions, and fluidity in the movements and transitions from one pose to another. Drunken body style seems peculiar and off-balance, but it is actually in balance.
Drunken style is among the most difficult styles of wushu due to the need for advanced basic requirements. Its intangible, heavy sloshing power is gained through training the body to be soft and agile through basic training and the drunken forms. While in fiction practitioners of zui quan are portrayed as being actually drunk, zui quan techniques are highly acrobatic and require a great degree of balance and coordination, such that attempting to perform these moves while drunk is dangerous, if not impossible.
Drinking, swaying, and falling with great momentum are used to fight. This power must be from softness and heaviness. Even the most unusual parts of the body are actively used to attack and defend. The main hand gesture imitates holding a small cup of wine. This semi-closed hand uses back of the hand, fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, and other parts to attack or defend, grab or throw, lock or release, etc. Fists are rarely used. This style tricks opponents into unpredictable situations of attack and defense. Aerial and ground dodges and falls can be used to avoid attacks but also to pin attackers to the ground while vital points are targeted.
Zui quan styles
Creation of the Buddhist style of zui quan is attributed to Shaolin temple. At the beginning of the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), 13 monks from the Shaolin temple intervened in a great war to help Li Shimin against rebel forces. The role of the monks was prominent so Li Shimin, as the next emperor, appreciated the monks' help and bestowed on them officialdom, land, and wealth. In ceremony of the victory, he sent the temple a gift of meat and wine.(vol2,p475) Because of the emperor's permission, the monks could abandon the Buddhist rule of not consuming meat and wine. This happened around 621 AD and since then, some Shaolin monks have consumed wine.
Drunken style was first introduced in the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD).(vol2,p476) It is said that a famous martial artist named Liu Qizan accidentally killed a person and sought refuge in Shaolin to avoid trial and to repent. Despite his monastic vows, he still continued drinking wine. This was not tolerable by the monks and they wanted to expel him from the temple. While completely drunk, after consuming a huge amount of wine, he defied the attacks of the Shaolin Monks, whom some say were thirty in number. The abbot, after seeing this, praised Liu Qizan's skill, and the "drunken style" of combat was adopted by the monks and refined over the generations.(vol2,p476)
The most important Buddhist icons in Shaolin kung fu are Arhats, known in Chinese as Luohans. The same holds for the drunken style as a part of Shaolin kung fu, in which, the main character is the drunken luohan. Drunken luohan methods in Shaolin kung fu do not appear only in zui quan, but in some other styles as well. For example, in Shaolin luohan quan a drunken luohan steps forward, in Shaolin 18 luohan quan one of the 18 characters is a drunken luohan, and in Shaolin mad-devil staff a drunken luohan sways to the sides with disorderly steps.
As with other Shaolin styles, Shaolin zui quan is not a complete stand-alone system itself, but consists of a few barehanded and weapon forms which together with other forms and styles comprise the whole system of Shaolin quan. Every lineage of Shaolin monks may have one or two barehanded and one or a few weapon forms of zui quan. The main weapon is the drunken staff, but other weapons such as the drunken sword are also practiced. Though the technical contents are almost the same, the drunken forms of different lineages are different and their historical sources are mostly unclear.
The Daoist style of zui quan imitates the characters of the "Drunken Eight Immortals" (zui ba xian). This style is a complete system itself comprising 8 forms, each representing one of the eight immortal characters:
- Lü Dongbin (吕洞宾), the leader of the 8 immortals, with a sword on his back that dispels evil spirits, swaying back and forth to trick the enemy; the drunkard with internal strength.
- Li Tieguai (李铁拐), Li, the cripple, walks with an iron cane, feigns the weakness of having just one leg, to win the fight with one powerful leg.
- Han Zhongli (汉钟离), the strongest immortal, carries a large cauldron of wine, tackles the enemies with strength.
- Lan Caihe (蓝采和), sexually ambiguous, carries a bamboo basket, attacking the enemies with swaying waist, mostly feminine postures.
- Zhang Guolao (张果老), old man Zhang, donkey rider, with his entertaining postures on the donkey, and his donkey's lethal swift double kicks.
- Cao Guojiu (曹国舅), the youngest immortal, a clever, controlled fighter, locks and breaks the joints (擒拿; qin na), attacks the deadly soft parts of the enemy body (点穴; dian xue).
- Han Xiangzi (韩湘子), flute-playing immortal, denying and countering the enemy attacks with powerful wrists.
- He Xiangu (何仙姑), Miss He, flirting with the enemy to cover her short-range attacks, evading the enemy attacks with the twisting body.
These elements combine to form a complete fighting art. This style has also several weapon forms. The main weapon is the drunken sword, but other weapons such as the staff are also used.
Variations of the Drunken Eight Immortals are found in different Daoist kung fu lineages, some with different training methods and interpretations than listed above. While the Eight Immortals have been linked to the initial development of qigong exercises such as the Eight Piece Brocade., there are training groups that specifically train the Drunken Eight Immortals for kung fu combat methods, Qigong, neigong and Daoist Yoga.
Many Chinese martial arts have drunken style methods.
- Some lineages of Choi Lei Fat contain drunken forms.
- Houquan or monkey style contains a drunken monkey form.
- Some family styles incorporate drunken techniques. In modern times the Ma family style known as Eight Shadows style (BaYingQuan) has a large drunken curriculum with a long involved hand form, weapon forms including staff, spear and sword, as well as a wooden man set. This lineage also includes drunken eight immortals training.
- Most lineages of Hung Gar and Hung Fat contain drunken forms.
- Modern performance wushu contains several exhibition drunken forms.
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