Study notes of Wing Chun Quan history and terminology for a Wushu contextualization

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Study notes of Wing Chun Quan history and terminology for a Wushu contextualization ​​ ​​ This is a part of my study draftnotes, less or more ordered, about history and nomenclature of Wushu generally, more in particular focused about orthodox … Continua a leggere

Martial Classics: The Complete Fist Cannon in Verse

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A period depiction of Ming Soldiers involved in the Piracy Crisis which inspired Qi Jiguang’s now famous discussion of military training. Source: Ming Qiu Shizhou Taiwan Zoukai Tu (Victory in Taiwan by Qiu Ying [pseudonym Shizhou] of the Ming, 1494 – 1552).  Click here to learn more about this important source.

Translator’s Note

Here is the full translation of the Qi Jiguang’s Fist Method as it appears in the Wubei Zhi, offered as a follow-up to my initial discussion of the challenges of translating this text into English verse. If you are coming to this discussion for the first time, you may want to read that initial essay before proceeding on. I want to make this available to everyone who expressed interest and to anyone else who might find it helpful. I do not intend this to be authoritative or even unchanging. Input and discussion is always wanted and appreciated. I hope you find it enjoyable to read. 


Historical context

“拳經捷要篇 -The Essential Chapters of the Fist Cannon” was first published in Qi Jiguang’s seminal training manual “JiXiaoXinShu”. It was later republished in the Wubei Zhi in it’s complete form. Understanding the content of this work is dependent upon understanding its historical contexts both in the military and broader social or societal arena. 



There are several social factors of this period in the Ming Dynasty that one must take into account when trying to place this treatise in its proper context. The traditional hereditary military system was breaking down. There were simply not enough officers or soldier being produced from those families to keep the Ming military at its former glory. The breakdown of Ming forces contributed to a rise in social violence including, rebellions, highway men and banditry, organized cannibalism, and other fairly horrific behaviors that occur when populations become desperate and have nowhere to turn.

While violence and crime were important factors in daily Ming life, there were also more positive influences. Printing and publishing saw an enormous rise during the Ming as did literacy. With a more literate populace, the demand for books of all types grew. Printed books became big business. The publishing boom of the 16th century produced thousands of texts to be consumed by a growing lettered class. It is in this environment that we find the rise of the martial arts/military treatise purchased by non-military readers. 

As the Literati grew in numbers, more and more books on every subject were produced. Those with an interest in military or martial affairs now had the ability to study these topics even if not born into the military class. People like Mao Yuanyi who wrote and compiled the largest written document on military affairs in the Chinese language, the Wubei Zhi, were able to access this information without being a member  of a hereditary Military family. This brought an entirely new perspectives to discussions of the martial arts. 

It is difficult to say when the Martial arts manual that we know today truly came about, but we have little evidence of these texts prior to the Ming dynasty. Surviving martial art texts from before the Ming are often vague and general, offering more strategic and tactical insight and philosophy than step by step instruction of technique. The true illustrated martial arts text was, more than likely, a product of the Ming publishing boom as the audience for such texts grew. 

Qi’s first book “JiXiaoXinShu” was published in this environment and one can make a convincing case that this is the oldest example of a martial arts manual for the training of individual skills. Where as prior, this information was most  likely held by the military families as “trade secrets,” Qi decided to include examinations of various martial arts for the battlefield and focus on the individual training of troops. 



Qi Jiguang wrote “JixiaoxinShu” in the late 1500’s near the end of the Ming Dynasty. The circumstances of his writing this book and subsequently re-editing it later, concern the Woku Coastal pirate crisis. The Woku, more commonly referred to as ‘Japanese Pirates’, were an enormous problem for the Ming at the end of the 1500’s. These bands of raiders, which consisted of mostly local Chinese citizens (often former fishermen or merchant sailors), were  bankrolled or under the command of self appointed Japanese Sea Lords. They operated under the nose of the Ming government, effectively undermining their trade war with Japan. 

Not only were the raids themselves a security problem for the region, but due to rampant corruption, many local authorities were actually collaborating with the Woku. This allowed them to bring their raids far inland and away from the coast. They were able to reach and pillage communities that were previously considered safe. 

Assigned to the region was another famous and influential writer of the Ming dynasty, General Yu Dayou, author of “Jian Jing”. General Yu was frustrated with the lack of support he received from the Capitol, who in turn withheld funds and equipment due to lack of real progress in the crisis. General Yu insisted that he needed more fire arms and ships to adequately meet the threat. The government refused. 

When General Qi arrived on the scene, he knew that asking for material support would be a fools errand. Instead, he came up with progressive if not novel approaches to the lack of technology and men available to them. He formed a mercenary army, consisting of volunteers from the affected farming communities. He specially chose these people as they were used to hard work, they were defending their homes, and they would be paid for their trouble. The problem was, that in the past, soldiers and military personnel came primarily from the hereditary military families and had some experience in the act of warfare. This system had begun to break down in the mid-Ming, which also contributed to the public’s general lack of faith in the imperial forces. 

Because these recruits were not from traditional military back grounds, there was a need to train them from the ground up. It is this method that Qi later detailed in his treatise “JiXianXinShu”- the New Methods of Military Effectiveness. One of the unique features of this book is that it is one of the first military treatises to cover the training of individual martial arts by soldiers. Since the men he was using a the time did not have formal training in military exercise or fighting on the battlefield, Qi included the training regimens for several weapons and one chapter devoted to empty handed technique. 

The martial arts that Qi choose to represent in his writing is linked to the strategies that he devised for the crisis. The spear takes the lead followed by the shield and dao, sported by archers with both conventional and fire/explosive arrows.At the end of the section is talk of the staff and finally is the bare handed section. Qi’s reason for including unarmed martial art is, as he states, mainly for conditioning and keeping the troops occupied and focused. While these techniques may have found some direct application in friendly wrestling bouts of the sorts that soldiers have while encamped, even Qi states in his introduction that there is little use for such things in the theater of war. 



The Art Represented 

Much of our discussion of Qi’s unarmed method must remain conjecture. The names of each technique are familiar to modern practitioners of Chinese martial arts. Many of these names appear in several separate martial traditions. Taijiquan, for instance, shares a fair number of these names within the various lineages of the art. Some historians have taken this to mean that this document is the direct antecedent to the art of Taijiquan. While it is difficult to say if there is a direct connection, or if Qi’s writing indicate the survival of an art that has been practiced since the Ming, it should be remembered that the names and techniques described here are actually shared by several styles including Baji, Fanzi, Pigua, Cha Quan, Tang Lang (mantis), and many others. Qi says that he has taken these techniques from various sources. It could be that the origins for the names are to be found in them, and thus may indicate an unbroken “lineage” into modern times. 

However, if one looks at the situation of new conscripts learning new skills and bringing them back to their home villages, a migration of common names through a wide variety of people and communities does not seem so far fetched. Let’s remember that Qi’s book was published and sold to non military readers as well and that it did gain a following among the literati. If these techniques were used in the training of provincial troops from surrounding areas, these men would take these technique, names, and sequences home with them and repurpose them for the needs of the community. It is in my opinion easy to assume that this is at least one factor in the creation of styles that share technique nomenclature yet no apparent technical base or common lineage. 

The techniques themselves seem to be centered around what could be deemed “fast wrestling” today. Fast wrestling is a sport in which wrestling moves are performed as quickly as possible and points are scored with successful throws without the use of extended ground fighting. Essentially, pin them as fast as you can. Battlefield techniques do not usually include lots of wrestling. But grappling and wrestling are far more useful than hitting in this context. Qi admits that this is included for exercise and conditioning only and has little direct relevance to war. 

Qi also makes the claim to have extracted these techniques as the best examples from the famous styles being practiced during the day. He then lists many of them with the impression being given that this is very much like a hybrid style made up of techniques from others. Some may be tempted to call this “mixed martial arts.” However, I believe it is an error to equate the purpose of Qi’s fist method with the modern sport of MMA. Martial arts have always borrowed and taken from other arts to add and expand their own. It does not follow that the mixing of techniques from different traditions was particularly rare or frowned upon. The sport of MMA is a mix of martial art for a single purpose of getting the most effective techniques for submitting your opponent. The use of fighting in the armed forces is much broader and, in Qi’s method, the unarmed exercises serve health and fitness purpose almost exclusively. In that sense at least, it is not that different from many modern practitioners of taijiquan practice today. 


Translation notes

Qi Jiguangs’s Empty-handed method is perhaps one of the best known Ming era martial arts texts. This is in large part due to the fact the many of the names of techniques used in this text are still found in martial arts today. Many traditions (most notably Taijiquan) cite this document as an early predecessor to the modern arts they practice. These arts often refer back to this document without much in the way of analysis. As the names are often popular, they have over the years acquired some conventional glosses. I have made a directed effort not to simply use these familiar translations but rather to render the name in as clear language as I can to describe the action taking place or to give a clearer context with the language. No doubt this might cause some initial confusion amongst readers who are looking at this through the lens of their own art. But, I am approaching the text as a separate practice, however influential it might have been. 

One specific note that should be pointed out is the translation of the word “Quan” 拳. While the word is a familiar suffix denoting a martial art, it is used in a few different ways in this text. In the past the word has ben translated as “boxing”. I have stayed away from that gloss for the most part as its is imprecise within the discussion we are currently having. I will at times translate it as “fist” to stay within the idiom, but when discussed in general terms, I have used the rather wordy “unarmed techniques/combat”. By using both approaches I hope that it reads more naturally without forcing the reader to code switch as much. 



I would like to thank Ting from the Great Ming Military blog, Clifford Lao, and Ma Xianfeng for their invaluable help and input in the subtleties of Literary Chinese and Ming history. Thanks also go to Ben Judkins for allowing me the platform to present my work. It is my sincerest wish that practitioners of martial arts will find these at the very least interesting if not illuminating to past practices. I also hope that it encourages more people to make their own translation attempts of these texts. Multiple perspectives are always needed.

 Any errors are my own and I accept any and all criticism or correction.




Essential Chapters of the Fist Cannon


[While this art is not very useful for preparing troops (for war), it can help with excess energy, or as an initial practice of martial arts. However, most people cannot become strong this way. They only listen to their own ears (only do movements with which they are familiar). Therefore, this section is placed at the end of the other sections as per it’s significance. Chapter 14]

拳法似無預於大戰之技,然活動手足,慣勤肢體,此為初學入藝之門也。故存于後,以備一家。學拳要身法活便,手法便利,腳法輕固,進退得宜,腿可飛騰,而其妙也,顛起倒插 ; 而其猛也,披劈橫拳;而其快也,活捉朝天;而其柔也,知當斜閃。故擇其拳之善者三十二勢,勢勢相承,遇敵制勝,變化無窮,微妙莫測。窈焉冥焉,人不得而窺者,謂之神。俗 云:「拳打不知」,是迅雷不及掩耳。所謂不招不架,只是一下;犯了招架,就有十下。博記廣學,多算而勝。

Unarmed combat seems to offer nothing in the way of the preparation for large scale war, but the exercising of the hands and feet forms habits for moving the limbs as a unit, making this practice a doorway to learning the art (of war).  This chapter is provided last to complete the preparation of skills.  To learn the fist (unarmed techniques) it is necessary to have the body mechanics lively yet simple, the hand work simple yet keen,  footwork is light, giving the ability to advance and retreat at will and legs that can leap and jump. How wonderful it is; To rise high and fall low, and how fierce; the chopping across with the fists, how quick; lively grasping for the sky, and how soft; to know how to endure and evade. For this reason I have chosen 32 of the best unarmed techniques, each one follows from the previous, with applications to an opponent, it can be adapted in unpredictable ways. How refined, how deep! The uninitiated will watch you and claim you are a supernatural master. A common saying; “The fist hits without knowing”, surely it is like trying to cover your ears before the thunder.  They say no provocation, no resistance, just one action will bring them down; attack will provoke resistance, then ten attacks of their own will follow. Play the game but remember the larger lesson, Those that strategize and plan will be victorious. 

古今拳家,宋太祖有三十二勢長拳,又有六步拳、猴拳、囮拳,名勢各有所稱,而實大同小異。至今之溫家七十二行拳、三十六合鎖、二十四棄探馬、八閃番、十二短,此亦善之善者也。呂紅八下雖剛,未及綿張短打,山東李半天之腿,鷹爪王之拿,千跌張之跌,張伯敬之打。少林寺之棍,與青田棍法相兼;楊氏 鎗法與巴子拳棍,皆今之有名者,雖各有所取。然傳有上而無下,有下而無上,就可取勝於人,此不過偏於一隅。若以各家拳法兼而習之,正如常山蛇陣法,擊首則尾應,擊尾則首應,擊其身而首尾相應,此謂上下周 全,無有不勝。

The Ancient Schools of the Fist; Taizu has 32 stances of long fist, also six step fist, monkey fist, decoy fist, the names of the stances each have their own qualities, but in reality they have a great amount of similarities and only small differences. Today the styles of note are Wen Family 72 step Fist, 36 locks, 24 throws of Testing Horse, 8 dodging turns, and 20 short (hits). Lu hong’s 8 take downs, although it is strong, it does not match the “cotton fist” or “Short Hit”. ShanDong’s Li BanTian’s kicks, Eagle Claw King’s grappling, 1,000 throws of Zhang’s throwing (method). Zhang BaiJing’s striking. The staff methods of Shaolin Temple and QingTian compliment each other, Yang Family Spear and Baozi style staff, this is all we have today, although they have their own strengths. Some systems may have the upper and not the lower, or have the lower and not the upper, victory may be possible for one man, but this is not a comprehensive approach. If each Family Fighting method is combined and practiced, the principle of the Mountain Snake Formation, strike the head and the tail must follow, strike the tail and the head must follow, strike at their body and both head and tail must react. This is what is meant by upper and lower are together, and victory is certain. 

大抵拳、棍、刀、鎗、叉、鈀、劍、戟、弓矢、鈎鐮、挨牌之類,莫不先有拳法活動身手。其拳也,為武藝之源。今繪之以勢,註之以訣,以啟後學。既得藝,必試敵,切不可以勝負為愧、為奇,當思何以勝之,何以敗之 !勉而久試,怯敵還是藝淺,善戰必定藝精。古云:「藝高人胆(膽)大」,信不誣矣!

Overall, the practice of the fist, saber, spear, fork, trident, sword, halberd, archery, hook, scythe,  and others in this class, first have the fist method to train the movement of body and hands.  And therefore, this method of unarmed combat is the wellspring of martial arts. Here the movements are transmitted by illustrations of the stances, explanation of the secrets, introducing the student to the method. Those that have learned this will surely test the enemy, do not be ashamed of the outcome, instead, ponder why you were victorious or how you were defeated. Make a concerted effort and experiment for a long time, if you lack courage your skill will be shallow, good fighting surely decides the essence of the art. The ancients have said; “The exulted artist is a man with great bravery”, trust this without reservation. 


When I was in ZhouShan, I was able to train with Liu Cao-Tong in boxing at the public hall, they say “If one commits only to blocking, ten more blows will come”,  just as with the very clever staff attack of chaining strikes together. 






Lǎn zhā yī chūmén jiàzi

biàn xià shì shà bù dān biān

duì dí ruò wú dǎn xiàng xiān

kōngzì yǎn míng shǒu biàn

Tie Your Coat and come outside,

Single Whip with sudden stride,

Without the courage to advance,

Sharp eyes fast hands will have no chance. 







Jīnjīdúlì diān (diān) qǐ

zhuāng tuǐ héng quán xiāng jiān

qiāng bèi wò niú shuāng

zāozhe jiàokǔliántiān

Golden Rooster stands on top,

Present your leg then sideways chop, 

Rush in low and Trip the Bull, 

They cry to heaven loud and full. 







Tànmǎ chuán zì tài zǔ

zhū shì kě jiàng kě biàn

jìngōng tuì shǎn ruò shēng qiáng

jiē duǎn quán zhī zhì shàn

Testing Horse was Song TaiZu’s,

Stances all can drop and move, 

Attacking and dodging will give you strength,* 

Receive their punches in short range







Ǎo dān biān huánghuā jǐn jìn

pī tiāo tuǐ zuǒyòu nán fáng

qiāng bù shàng quán lián pī jiē

chénxiāng shì tuīdǎo tài shān

Crossed Single Whip firmly pries it’s way in,

When finding it hard from their kick to defend,

Rush in with continuous, liftings and chops,

Knock down Tai Mountain into low stances drop. 







Qīxīng quán shǒuzú xiānggù

āi bù bī shàngxià dī lóng

ráo jūn shǒukuài jiǎo rú fēng

wǒ zì yǒu jiǎo chōng pī zhòng

In The Seven Star Fist, the hand follows the feet,

Stepping in close, upper lower to beat, 

The enemy limbs are fast like the wind, 

My own heavy chops will disturb them to win.  







Dào qí lóng zhà shū yáng zǒu

yòu zhuīrù suì wǒ huí chōng

nèn yī lì měng yìng lái gōng

zěn dāng wǒ liánzhū pào dòng

Ride the Dragon Inverted to feign a defeat, 

As they enter I turn and reveal my deceit. 

His attack it is fierce his hits they are strong,

But my beating continues, he can’t last for long! 




懸腳 虛餌彼輕進




Xuán jiǎo xū ěr bǐ qīng jìn

èr huàn tuǐ jué bù ráo qīng

gǎn shàng yī zhǎng mǎn tiān xīng

shuí gǎn zài lái bǐ yǎ

Hang up the Leg as bait for a trick, 

It’s not easy to follow when I switch it to kick,

My Palm makes him see the heaven and stars,

To fight me again, afraid all of them are. 







Qiū liú zuǒ bānyòu zhǎng

pī lái jiǎo rù bù lián xīn

nuó gèng quánfǎ tànmǎ jūn

dǎ rén yīzhe mìng jǐn

Hill Attack changes left with a palm to the right,

They chop, I come in with a heart level strike,

Further I go with Testing the Horse, 

With one hit I end them with just the right force.







Xià chā shì zhuān jiàng kuài tuǐ

dé jìnbù jiǎo kào wú bié

gōu jiǎo suǒ pī bùróng lí

shàng jīng xià qǔ yī diē

Hidden Below drops down fast with the legs, 

Step in and knock them down  off a few pegs,

Hooking the foot and locking the arm,

Feint high, go low, trip and do harm. 







Máifú shì wō gōng dài hǔ

fàn quāntào cùnbù nán yí

jiù jī lián fā jǐ tuǐ

tā shòu dǎ bìdìng hūn wēi

Lying in Wait for the beast in it’s den,

The inch step corrals them like they’re in a pen,

Continuously kick with the legs and the thighs,

Receiving a hit means they surely will die. 







Pāo jiàzi qiāng bù pīguà

bǔ shàng tuǐ nà pà tā shí

yòu héng zuǒ cǎi kuài rú fēi

jià yī zhǎng bùzhī tiāndì

Throwing Technique enters, splits and then hangs,

Take advantage with kicks fearing them seeing your plans,

Fly to the left across from the right,

Fend off with one palm and out go the lights!  







Niān zhǒu shì fáng tā nòng tuǐ

wǒ jié duǎn xū rèn gāodī

pī dǎ tuī yā yào jiē yī

qiè wù shǒujiǎo máng jí

Defend from their legs with Pluck the Elbow,

I intercept close watching high and then low,

Chopping and pushing and pressing you need,

To hit them not rushing your hands or your feet.








Yīshà bù suíjīyìngbiàn

zuǒyòu tuǐ chōng dí liánzhū

nèn yīshì gù shǒu fēngléi

zěn dāng wǒ shǎn jīng qiǎo qǔ

Instant Step waits for the time it can change,

Kick with both legs when you come into range,

Their stances are solid, their hands like the wind,

Why accept the attack when I can dodge it to win?







Qínná shì fēng jiǎo tàozi

zuǒyòu yā yī rú sì píng

zhí lái quán féng wǒ tóu huó

nèn kuài tuǐ quán bùdé tōngróng

Grabbing and Seizing envelopes the foot, 

Left and Right press Si Ping standing with root,

A straight punch comes in, lively I throw, 

So that his kicks and his punches, they all are too slow. 







Jǐng lán sìpíng zhíjìn

jiǎn lián tī xī dāngtóu

gǔn chuān pī kào mǒ yī gōu

tiě yàng jiāngjūn yě zǒ

Blocking the Well stance goes directly ahead,

Scissor their knee while blocking the head,

Roll, pierce, chop, lean, wipe off, and hook,

Armored Generals themselves to their cores will be shook.







Guǐ cù jiǎo qiāng rén xiānzhe

bǔ qián sǎo zhuǎn shàng hóng quán

bèi gōng diān pī jiē qǐ

chuān xīn zhǒu kào miào nán chuán

The Ghost Kick begins and shoots out toward them first,

Rush in, turn and hit them, their heart will then burst,

Stand with them on your back like a coat,

An elbow to the heart is no playful joke. 







Zhǐ dāng shì shì gè dīng fǎ

tā nán jìn wǒ hǎo xiàng qián

tī xī gǔn cuó shàngmiàn

jí huí bù diān duǎn hóng quán

Directed Defense Stance has feet like a “T”,

My defenses make it hard to attack me freely,

Kick the knee, turn, and jump up to their face.

Fast Red Fist short range to show them their place.







Shòu tóu shì rú pái āi jìn

nèn kuài jiǎo yù wǒ huāngmáng

dī jīng gāoqǔ tā nán fáng

jiē duǎn pīhóng chōng shàng

The Beast Head comes in if the opponent is near.

When we meet, my quick footwork will grip him with fear.

Feint low, go high, they cannot defend,

Receive his short chops and charge into them.



中四平勢 實推固




Zhōng sìpíng shì shí tuī gù

yìng gōng jìn kuài tuǐ nán lái

shuāng shǒu bī tā dān shǒu

duǎn dǎ yǐ shú wèi guāi

Middle Siping is pushing with root,

Hard attacks and quick footwork are both rendered moot, 

With two hands their one hand is quickly subdued,

A short hit from here is skillfully shrewd. 







Fú hǔ shi cèshēn nòng tuǐ

dàn lái zòu wǒ qián chēng

kàn tā lì zhàn bù wěn

hòu sǎo yī diē fēnmíng

Subduing the Tiger leans back for a kick,

But, he returns my attack I must brace forward and quick. 

I look and see that his stance is not steady,

I sweep him behind before he is ready. 









Gāo sìpíng shēn fǎ huó biàn

zuǒyòu duǎn chūrù rú fēi

bī dírén shǒuzúwúcuò

nèn wǒ biàn jiǎo tī quán chuí

High Siping method is agile and changes, 

Like flying zig zag in and out of short ranges 

Block the enemy limbs so they cannot attack. 

My foot it may kick and the fist can beat back. 







Dào chā shì bù yǔ zhāojià

kào tuǐ kuài tǎo tā zhī yíng

bèi gōng jìnbù mò chí tíng

dǎ rú gǔ shēng xiāngyìng

Inverting Thrust does not provoke with a guard,

With quick tripping legs their foundation bombard,

Stretch the back like a bow, step in with a dash,

The valley will echo with the hit’s sudden crash. 







Shén quán dāngmiàn chā xià

jìnbù huǒyàn cuán xīn

yù qiǎo jiù ná jiù diē

jǔ shǒu bùdé liúqíng

Spirit Fist blocks in front to invade down below,

Step in, gather fire, use your chest as bellows, 

Meeting skill, simply seize them and make them fall down,

Raise your hand to prevent them from gaining new ground. 







Yītiáo biān héngzhí pī kǎn

liǎng jìn tuǐ dāngmiàn shāng rén

bùpà tā lì cū dǎn dà

wǒ qiǎo hǎo dǎtōng shén

One Lash hacks across and down,

Block their legs and face them down,

Fear not men who’s strength is crude,

They’ll talk with gods through my hits true.







Què de lóng xià pántuǐ fǎ

qián jiē qǐ hòujìn hóng quán

tā tuì wǒ suī diān bǔ

chōng lái duǎn dāng xiū yán

Ground Dragon trains the legs to go low,

Lift them then enter with a heavy red blow,

They run from me, fine, I will still take the day,

Rushing in close to block, stop or delay.







Zhāoyáng shǒu piān shēn fāng tuǐ

wú fèng suǒ bī tuì háo yīng

dào zhènshì dàn tā yī jiǎo

hǎo jiào tā shī yě sāng shēn

The Hand of Dawn’s body slants defending from feet,

Seamlessly lock them to compel a retreat.

Knock Down the Pillar by quickly kicking their thigh, 

Teach them so well, their own master will die. 







Yīng chì cèshēn āi jìn

kuài tuǐ zǒu bù liú tíng

zhuī shàng chuān zhuāng yī tuǐ

yào jiā jiǎn pī tuī hóng

The Eagle’s Wing inclines in close,

Footwork fast and continuous,

Chase them down and kick through their base,

Chop, shear, and push you must keep the pace. 







Kuà hǔ shi nà yí fā jiǎo

yào tuǐ qù bù shǐ tā zhī

zuǒyòu gēn sǎo yīlián shī

shīshǒu jiǎndāo fēn yì

Ride the Tiger moves and kicks,

Hide your legs with subtle tricks,

Sweep your heel both left and right,

The hand can slice them like a knife.







Ǎo luán zhǒu chū bù diān duò

bān xià zhǎng zhāi dǎ qí xīn

ná yīng zhuō tù yìng kāi gōng

shǒujiǎo bìxū xiāngyìng

The Crossed Phoenix Elbow steps out pounding  to start,

Then fast going under to palm strike their heart,

Like an eagle with talons grab and tear them asunder,

Surely hand must unite with foot that is under. 







Dāngtóu pào shì chōng rù pà

jìnbù hǔ zhí cuān liǎng quán

tā tuì shǎn wǒ yòu diān chuài

bù diédǎo tā tā máng rán

Block the Head Canon charges in with out fear, 

Step in like a tiger, throw both fists like a spear,

When they dodge I will trip them and stomp them again,

Even if they don’t fall they must start again.  







Shùn luán zhǒu kào shēn

bān dǎgǔn kuài tā nán zhēlán

fù wài jiǎo shuā huí shuān

dù dā yī diē shuí gǎn zhēngxiān

Tame the Phoenix by leaning and use the elbow.

Move, strike, and roll, they have no where to go,

Return to the outside and twist them to bind,

Throw them down, to fight back they’d be out of their mind.







Qí gǔ shì zuǒyòu yā jìn

jìn tā shǒu héng pī shuāng xíng

jiǎo kào diē rén rén shí dé

hǔ bàotóu yào duǒ wú mén

Banners and Drums comes in to suppress,

Approaching them chopping like crossing the chest. 

Everyone sees the throw with the twist,

Embracing the Tiger no way to resist.



A contemporary depiction of Qi Jiguang’s troops from the recent film, “God of War.”



* Readers may note that this is alternate translation of this passage and differs from the one discussed in the previous post. As previously noted, this is an evolving work and I am open to ideas and suggestions:

Testing Horse was Song TaiZu’s,
Stances all can drop and move,
Advance attack, retreat to dodge,
Come in close with a fist barrage.



About the Author: Chad Eisner is a martial arts practitioner and instructor in Ann Arbor Michigan, teaching Ma She Tongbei and Taiji Quan. His experience in Chinese martial arts  and as a professional interpreter have naturally lead to a fascination with the translation of Ming dynasty martial arts texts. He is also the co-founder of Terra Prime Light Armory which uses historical based weapon arts to create lightsaber and fantasy martial arts for use in competition, performance, and learning.




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