(pillars of meihua plum)

"Meihuazhuang" ("pillars of meihua plum") is a brief variant of "ganzhi wushi meihuazhuang" ("trunks, branches and five forms on pillars of meihua plum"), this style also known as "meihuaquan" ("fist of meihua plum"). It has more than thousand year history. This style origins from monks and belong to Kunlun's branch of chinese martial arts. During long time it passed from father to son, from son to grandson, i.e. only through male line, this was a reason to the name "fuziquan" ("fist of father and son"). Because of it although this style is known from ancient time, it spread only at the end of Ming - beginning of Qing dynasty in countyes, placed on the joint of Hebei, Henan, Shandong and Shanxi provinces. The story is the next.

In Wuqiang county of Hebei province, 15 li north from Wuqiangxian there exist Wangjiazhuang village. Outside the village it was Guandimian temple (Temple of emperor Guan; Guan Yu - hero of Three Kingdoms period, was esteemed as God of War). Temple was very small, after some time there lived only one monk, in the time described he was 60 or 70 years old. Once in the evening some tramp named Li come to the temple and askrd for living. After talking with monk they became friends. From that time he lived in the temple, and sell bisquits and pancakes for living.

Near Guandimian there was a place for training martial arts (due to other source training lessons took place on the temple's yard). Village's habitants worked on the fields, but in the evening a lot of people come to this place for training martial arts with shifu. Old Li also came there too and sitting near this sports-ground looked on the people's fuss. Got hungry during the training people often bought from him pancakes and bisquits, and after a short time all in the village knew Old Li Who Sell Pancakes. He sell fair, tell soft, and all people loved this old man.

Once in the evening one wandering cloth merchant in panic run to the training. When come to the yard he kneeled and began bow to shifu asking help. Due to his words when he went near graveyard three men jumped out and confiscated the cloth with beating him up. All the many his family had were from the cloth's trade. He cannot speak and fell into the sobbing.

After listening the story shifu was very angry and, helping the merchant to stand up, said: "The impudence of this bandits grew very high. Rob in the day near our village! How long? My students! Catch this bandits and bring them here!" Group of students caught up weapons and went out. After their leavoing Old Li, who sat near, said: "I'll go too, it's necessary to look" At this moment there were no weapons on the sports-ground, he took horse-collar and went after.

Soon students brought three tied bandits and all merchant's things. Shifu was happy, merchant continuously thanked. "Well, who first entered fighting? Who caught this trio?" - gaily asked shifu. Students looked each other, nobody answered. Wondered shifu repeated the question. Somebody said: "When we went half of way, we looked Old Li. He went with horse-collar in hands and cloth on shoulders. When we asked him, he only said: `Three bandits lie near the road, quickly catch them!' We run farther and saw two man lying on the graveyard and third - in twentty steps far, moaned, with broken legs". After this words shifu exclaimed: "I have eyes, but blind! This Old Li is very skilled man, no doubts! Let quickly invite him!"

But Old Li gaily answered: "Where I could study something? I whole days saw your teaching and remembered some methods, today I used them". Shifu said nothing, but since that day bega n to look carefully on movements of Old Li. Some days after shifu and students organized a party and asked Old Li to come. During party Li proved himself as high erudited broad-minded man, was able to speak on any theme, but when anybody began to talk about martial arts - immediately said that he does not able to do anything.

From that time shifu and Old Li became friends. Every evening Old Li came to the training, but now he was immediately invited to sit near the shifu. But during any talking Li refuted that he know martial arts.

Shifu knew that when skilled in martial arts look on tha training of otner men - especially, if it is high-level training - he also want to do something. It is called "itch of skill". Shifu decided to use it.

That day many students trained on the sports-ground, all worked with good power. Shifu said that after such a training it is possible to come home more soon, and all prepared to rest. Old Li came home too. Came back to the temple he feel "itch of skill" and was not able to find a place for himself. He put down basket with pancakes, washed himself and began to perfom movements on the temple's yard. He flied and returned, rotated and turned, mixed form and spirit, force and power, flying fist born wind, leg flied like cat hunting the mouse. Then he came to the Guan Yu statue, saluted to it, come to Zhou Cang (Guan Yu bodyguard) statue, pulled out qinglongyandridao ("sword of dark dragon saluted to the sun" - kind of halabard) and began to execute movements of chunqiu dadao ("Halabard of Springs and Autumns"). Never before people have seen such techniques, all began to applaud and cry "Bravo!". Old Li and shifu looked each other, and shifu said: "Today I saw your excellent performing. My skill is to far from your's, I ask you to teach my students!". Immediately shifu ordered students to greet Teacher Li. Old Li promised to teach martial art in the village. It turned out that his name is Li Tingji, he was from Qujiazhuang village of Wei county, Hebei province, and his martial art is called "meihuazhuang". Li Tingji escaped from home village because killed a bodyguard of petty tyrant landlord.

Time flys like arrow. Once, some years later, Ren Junjie - one of Li Tingji's students - trained at home. One old man with injured leg come to the fence and asked for a water. Looking at old man Ren Junjie said, that there is some boiled water at home, and invited to come and drink. Drinking water old man began talking with Ren Junjie and asked: "How long do you train martial arts? Who is your shifu?" Wiping sweat Ren Junjie answered: "I train myself during some years, name of my shifu is Li Tingji..." Old man said: "It is possible to assume that you train during some years, but some movements are bad, it is necessary that movement started - and method finished, else it is not appliable". Ren Junjie was unpleasant to listen this, and he thought: "Does this man able to do anything?" He throw a pole to old man and said: "You said that my movements are not appliable. I wish to study from you!" With this words he caught another pole. He couldnot think that will immediately overturned by old man. He stood up and again began to execute one method after another, but old man like playing with a child again and again dropped him down. Ren Junjie understood that this is not a usual man. He bowed to him and asked a lesson. Old man answered: "OK! I'll stay here during some days, but you must remember one thing, else I'll not teach you!" Ren Junjie said: "Let teacher say, and I'll do it". Old man said: "It is not allowed to tell anybody that I teach you and live in your house". Ren Junjie agreed, old man stayed at his house, and Ren Junjie every day have a lesson from old man and a lesson from Li Tingji.

After some month skill of Ren Junjie was improved. His methods differed a lot from the methods of other students. Li Tingji felt something unusual, but didn't say anything. Once he called all students together. All student gathered on sports-ground and looked how Li Tingji ordered Ren Junjie to kneel and began to interrogate. Ren Junjie resisted, and infuriated teacher Li ordered all students to kneel. Students didn't know what the matter, and they asked Junjie: "Brother, better confess, teacher is infuriated!" Junjie broke down and told how he secretly study martial art from old man with injured leg. After listening Li Tinji began to laugh and said: "During long time I can see that you secretly study methods of my school, some of them are favourite methods of my younger brother. It turns out that he really arrived. Let's quickly go to your house, I want to see him".

Meet each other brothers began to sob: old man really was Li Tingji's younger brother - Li Tinggui. Brothers studied martial art from the same teacher, and were very skilled. Now Li Tinggui leave home village especially to find elder brother. Meihuazhuang have specific manner and trainig methods, it is not well-known style, so seeing Ren Junjie's training he understood that it is elder brother's student. He stayed at Ren Junjie's house and made a joke.

Li Tinggui told that landlord died long time ago, nobody remember about old crime case, and it is possible to visit home village. Li Tingji answered: "Brother Tinggui, I wish to return and see the relatives, but if I go now it will be bad for my student". Brothers decided that when Li Tinji will be at home village, Li Tinggui will teach his students.

Among all students Ren Junjie was the best. Later he taught Yin Mochi and Zhao Yinlian, Zhao Yinlian taught famous Han Qichang. Han Qichang was the first who transferred meihuazhuang from Hebei to Beijing. In Beijing he taught son Han Jiangzhong, grandson Han Chao and more than hundred other students.

During the training of meihuazhuang inner and outer are mutual coordinated, inner and outer are trained parallelly, form and spirit are coordinated in one, movements outstretch on a large space, soft and hard help to each other, movement and rest are conformed to each other, delays and accelerates are rhytmical, form and spirit have specific manner.

Old meihuazhuang masters told that in the past in meihuazhuang all training happened on the tops of pillars. On platform during executing of set every step is step from one pillar on another. Minimal pillar's height - 1m, when skill improves - pillars grow.

Basic set of meihuazhuang has steps on pillars and steps on the ground. There are five kinds of steps on pillars: dashi (big form), shunshi (form with one-sided leg ahead), aoshi (form with other-sided leg ahead), xiaoshi (small form) and baishi (defeated form); together they are called "5 kinds of steps on pillars". They are final forms of all methods, it is basic method of training qi and force of whole body. Symmetric training (on two sides) of five kinds of steps on pillars is similar to two meihua flowers. There exist three methods of steps on the ground: zhafa (method of quick rushing ahead), baifa (method of throwing oneself from one side to another ) and chefa (method of stepping back). Three methods of steps on the ground connect five kinds of steps on the pillars, execute changing of that kinds, it is a reason for the name "ganzhi wushi meihuazhuang".

Later digging in pillars became too expensive, and training became to be on the ground. But old methods were kept, and it became a reason for another name of the style - "luodi ganzhi wushi meihuazhuang" ("ganzhi wushi meihuazhuang on the ground"). In last century Zhang Congfu changed big framework of meihuazhuang into small framework of meihuazhuang, and now meihuazhuang is divided on dajia meihuazhuang (meihuazhuang of big framework) and xiaojia meihuazhuang (meihuazhuang of small framework).

Methods of barehand combat are divided on three divisions - high, middle and low. They are called high, middle and low levels. High level: diao (cling), na (catch), suo (seal up), dai (pull), gou (cling by hook), lou (rake up), bao (plane), da (hit), beng (collapse), tiao (rip up), pi (cut) and za (break); middle level: zhan (touch), nian (stick), lian (continue), sui (follow), xi (attract), xie (unload), rou (soft), hua (change), tui (push), tuo (raise), ling (control), dai (pull), zhan (twirl), zhuan (turn), niu (screw), zeng (skin, strip), aibang (contact by arms), jikao (pressing lean), weishen (pressing by the body), kaoda (leaning strike); low level: ti (kick by stretched leg), dian (point kick), jie (stop), zhuang (push off), gou (cling by hook), gua (hang), cai (tread on), pian (go on circle), die (stumble), pu (bang), gun (roll), fan (overturn), qianhou saotang (sweep by leg forward and backward), zuoyou chengba (left and right push-raising). All parts of body are used in movements.

Meihuazhuang also contain specific methods of moving in fighting. One of them is called "bafangbu" ("step of eight directions"). There exist "big bafangbu", "middle bafanbu" and "small bafangbu". "Small bafangbu" is three-points stepping, "middle bafangbu" - five-points stepping, "big bafangbu" - stepping on chaotic-placed points. If you are skilled in "big bafangbu" - in fighting you can free move in any direction, you don't need take care about stepping.

Meihuazhuang's training is divided on five stages. First stage - initial stage. It is a period of stretching muscles, developing joints, improving flexibility. Second stage is a stage of training jibengong (basic training) and basic set of meihuazhuang. Training of basic set is called "la jiazi" ("building of framework"). During "la jiazi" it is possible to improve force, endurance, adroitness and speed, strengthen body and spirit, make co-ordination better. Basic training lasts up to reaching "liuhe" ("6 co-ordinations"). Third stage is called "da chengquan" ("working on fist of achievements"). It is period of two-men training in pairs. Examples of exercises: "10 big hands of pair training of fist of achievements", "10 small hands of pair training of fist of achievements", "5 strikes of head hand", "6 kinds of hip strikes", "pair training of 10 kinds of continued kicks", "set of 6 basic kinds of catching"... Third stage build a foundation for real fighting. Fouth stage is called "da yingquan" ("working on fist of victory"). During "da yingquan" opponents haven't any scheme in pairs, but only two men participate in every fighting. Fifth stage - "gongquan" ("fist of success") or "ningquan" ("fist of preference"). On this stage you are not limited not only in techniques, also it is not limited number of opponents. Two against one, three against one, crowd against one... If you can win such a battle - you have mastered meihuazhuang.

Meihuazhuang have many methods of weapon training. Basic kinds of weapon: qipan daqiang (big spear of chessboard) and chunqiu dadao (halabard of Springs and Autumns). Besides dao (broadsword), spear, jian (straightsword), ji (ancient weapon, lance with crescent blade under the tip), axe, yue (big axe with hook blade), hook and pitchfork, there exist many rare kinds of weapon: dangpa (trident), yanchi dang (trident of swallow wings), lanma jue (wooden reins), tiji (raised ji), wenbang (civil cudgel), wuhu shengou (magic hooks of five tigers), chenxiang guai (crutch of thick aroma), huping guai (crutch making the tiger peaceful), liuxing guai (meteor crutch), jiuhuan xizhang fangbian chan (comfrotable spade with tin handle and nine rings), nanyang cha (fork of southern sun), meihua kun gun (trigramm `kun' pole of meihuazhuang), fenghuo lun (ring of wind and fire) and so on. Meihuazhuang contains as sole, as pair training with weapon, there exist a big amount of two-men sets: barehand against dagger, barehand against spear, barehand against dao, two daggers against flower spear, crutch-dao against flower spear, pair of dao against spear, pair of cruthes against spear, trident-fork against halabard, war of wuhu shengou, war of poles, war of big poles, war of dao, war of jian, chenxiang guai against flower spear, war of pairs of crutches and so on. Also there exist many kinds of secert weapon: stones of flying locust, magic arrows, crossbow of bending head, flying catch of meihua locks, meihua needles, meihua darts and so on.

Wushu is closely related with China's history. One of the heads of Baguajiao (Eight Trigrams Society) Feng Keshan and Yihetuan's leader ("Yihetuan" - "group of justice and unity"; Yihetuan rebellion also known as Boxer's rebellion) Zhao Sanduo were meihuazhuang masters, in Zhao Sanduo's army many soldiers trained meihuazhuang. For politic reasons during rebellion name "meihhuaquan" was changed to "yihequan" ("fist of justice and unity").