Part of an essay I am writing for the World Drunken Boxing Association website, while the site is still under construction I thought I would share the beginnings of Spilling Wine & Secrets as the whole purpose is to keep this relatively unknown system alive by sharing it openly. Hope you enjoy.
Zui Quan 醉拳 translated generally as Drunken Style Kung Fu is one of the most rare, closely guarded and misunderstood styles of the Martial Arts. Usually found hidden inside other more popular styles of both North and South China as an advanced form or system it almost never is seen in it’s real raw form outside closed doors. The purpose of this site is to create a resource for people looking to learn about the style, it’s concepts and principles and to help find teachers and masters that teach it to their students.
基本功 translates as “basic skills training” and this section is dedicated to the basic understanding of what Drunken is from the standpoint of traditional chinese martial arts and culture. While this page is not meant as a training or teaching tool the cultural context and research of an art has a direct effect on the quality of the understanding of the practitioner. The Jibengong that follows is meant as an overview of drunken training in general in order to help you, the person reading and researching, to have a better idea of what to look for in a teacher, lesson or style of drunken to learn.
Chinese martial arts can be divided up into many different divisions, one of which historically are known as imitative styles. These types of martial arts are generally known to imitate the appearance of an animal, spirit or in this case state of drunkeness. The appearance of drunken style is reminiscent of an intoxicated man, stumbling about, falling down and flailing wildly. But this is only the training and the outside appearance of the style, not the mind of the player while training or in combat.
Art of Deception
When discussing the style and it’s external appearance the idea of deception always arises. It is important to realize that the opponent you face will be very, very unlikely to believe you are drunk. You were sober a moment ago most likely and drunken is not an unknown style so this cannot be the deception people are relying on. The nest thing discussed for deception is generally strange angles and tactics, non orthodox methods that surprise the opponent and are hard to predict. While physically this is true when considering movement in drunken versus more ‘normal’ or orthodox styles or methods it is important to remember that “Drunken is so deceptive it decieves its own students.” The adage “Mind Sober, Body Drunk” is most important to remember as it is very easy to become caught up in the performance aspect of the art and allow the mind to become clouded to the purpose of the movements and the tactics of the style. My own Shifu in Drunken spoke of this comparing Drunken to a Tornado. The mind remaining calm in the centre while the style, the movements, whirled around you. Sober inside, Drunk outside.
Internal / External
The debate of internal vs external martial arts is not what I intend to tackle here with any depth; but I will mention that Sun Lu Tang coined the phrase Neijia not so very long ago in Martial Arts history. It seems to me that many styles have a yin yang reversal during the time one trains them over the course of a lifetime anyway. Shaolin (if one believes the legends) began with three internal exercises – Muscle tendon change classic, Bone/Brain Marrow Washing Classic & 18 Lo Han Palm. From these three internal exercises a good deal of the external sprang into Shaolin Kung Fu. Chen Family Taiiquan begins very much external with learning the form, becomes internal with structure, alignment and principles, becomes external again with Cannon Fist (Pao Chui) but is driven by the internal again. Not all styles have this type of balance but one that does is some of the Drunken Fist Styles. It begins with external training and conditioning of the body and progresses to internal developemtn of power and structure and in some cases includes neigong training, meditation and even shamanic or spiritual training.
North / South
While most of the martial arts of Chinese origin practiced today come from the South of the country, systems of Northern China still are taught and trained just out of the public eye. The cultural revolution in China (1966-1976) heavily affected the martial arts of the North, exterminating many of them, while the South, while not untouched, suffered less martially. Most of the Drunken systems found today originate from Southern Styles like Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut and so on. While Northern systems seem more rare they can still be found in styles like Ying Jow (Eagle Claw), Ma Jia Quan (Ma Family Style) and some more obscure local or village styles.
Performance vs. Combat
Modern wushu has been the place most Drunken style performances can be seen today. It was adopted due to it’s showy techniques, acrobatics and the many chances to impress judges with flexibility and unusual methods. Unfortunately this has overshadowed the traditional styles in the public eye as they are not near as interesting to watch for the average person, lacking the flash of the wushu competitors. There is nothing wrong with modern wushu as a sporting event and the competitors are amazing to watch, but their art is for performance and not combat. It is the lack of combative ability that has seeped into drunken practices that is worth mention. Traditional Drunken Fist has a very real combative aspect to it among other important skills it teaches, to train it witou the combative aspect is robbing it of its fangs and does not only it a disservice but neuters it for future generations.
Weapon training seems antiquated to many people in modern day but the skills weapons teach are often overlooked. Of course the ability to learn a traditional weapon, actually be able to use it in sparring effectively (not just flailing around like a six year old) is very important. Without the understanding of how it is used in combat the training of it becomes meaningless gymnastics. But weapons convey training to the practitioner that is at first hard to see or notice. Each weapon acts as an amplifier for errors in the players movements making them larger and easier to notice for the player and the teacher to allow for proper correction to a level of detail sought after by serious practitioners. That is not the only reason to maintin a weapons practice in modern day however, many weapons like for instance the Chinese Spear (Qiang) have exercises that connect rhe body more intimately than empty hand practice does, or at least more quickly. Pole shaking drills in Drunken fist are used to create connection and cascades of muscular contraction throughout the body to accelerate the force created and delivered through the hands, or in this case, the spear. Drunken generally is seen to play traditional weapons such as Sword (Jian), Staff (Gun), Broadsword (Dao) and so on, each with its own special methods and results.
The essay is meant as an introduction to the art in general and I am working on my new book “Secrets of Drunken Boxing Volume Three” which will include this essay in more detail as well, going into even more specfic info for the drunken student. I truly hope this art stays alive, bringing it out from being kept secret is what makes the arts thrive and live on, keeping them secret is slowly killing them.
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