The Rosetta Stone of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts
by Salvatore Canzonieri
This chart compares movement by movement the postures of each set, showing the equivalent postures and movements from Tai Ji to Shaolin to Tong Bei. The movements of each set match not only in sequence of movements but by their functional mechanics as well. Each column, from left to right, goes further back in time. All Chen and post Chen TJQ sets are from after the 1600s AD. The Shaolin sets are said to go further back to the Ming Dynasty at the latest and to the Song, Tang, Sui, and Liang Dynasty times at the earliest and were used by both their martial and religious monks for health and self defense. The Tong Bei material has origins much further back to the Warring States time period, but was mostly used during the Sung, Tang, Sui, and Liang Dynasty eras by the military in the Shanxi and Henan province areas, where Shaolin and TJQ was later developed.
In Shaolin Louhan 13 Gung (exercises or postures), the movements of the first three postures (Old Monk Splits Wood, Luohan Drapes Coat, and Lazy Monk Lies on Pillow) correspond directly to the movements in the "8 Gates" of Tai Ji 13 Gung (such as Peng (ward off), Lu (roll back/lead), Ji (press/squeeze), An (push), Cai (pull down), Lie (split), Zhao (elbow), and Kao (shoulder)) in this exact same sequence. These movements of the Luohan 13 Gung movements contain the remaining "5 Steps," with the rest of the set featuring various combinations of what TJQ calls the Eight Gates and Five Steps. The first Eight Gates or Eight Entrances (Ba Gua or Pa Kau) can be divided into the Four Primary Hands (Ward Off, Pull Back, Press and Push) and the Four Corner Hands (Pull Down, Split, Elbow and Shoulder). In Luohan 13 Gung the Four Primary Hands are in postures 1 (Old Monk Splits Wood) and 2 (Louhan Drapes Coat), while the For Corner Hands are seen in posture 3 (Lazy Monk Lies on Pillow). The Five Steps (Wu Bu) are an integral part of Shaolin 6 Harmony Gung and closely resembles the "Brush Knee Twist Step" movements of TJQ.
Both in TJQ and in Shaolin Rou Quan and the various Shaolin nei gungs (6 Harmony, Chan Yuan, Luohan 13) the front foot is placed down on its heel, then as the body moves forward the toes are placed. The weight does not come any more forward than the middle of the foot. The thighs and knees are curved and collecting while the rear thigh is less curved than the front. The rear foot controls the waist in yielding and throwing away the attacker?s strength. The waist is controlled during this step by the rear foot.
Further, the first six movements/postures (everything before "Brush Knee Twist Step" in TJQ) in ALL the various sets are mechanically and functionally identical, including the initial preparation salute movements.
The movements in the Shaolin Nei Gung sets such as 6 Harmony Gung, Chan Yuan Gung, Luohan 13 Gung are clearly derived from soft and hard mechanics in Tong Bei sets and drill movements. Shaolin Rou Quan set movements are clearly derived from these Shaolin Nei Gungs that have origins in Tong Bei. The Rou Quan sets are more fluid and softer in mechanics. The Shaolin Xiao Hong Quan and Tai Tzu Chang Quan sets' movements follow the Shaolin Rou Quan but with a mixture of soft and hard mechanics, emphasizing more the Tong Bei aspects. Clearly, the Chen TJQ Yi Lu set closely follows the large frame of the Shaolin TZ Chang Quan set, showing movements in common that are missing in Yang TJQ. In mechanics, Yang TJQ follows the Chen TJQ set for the most part, but the mechanics are done more like Shaolin Xiao Hong Quan and Shaolin Rou Quan. The two different Wu styles of TJQ follow the frame of the Yang TJQ. The Wu (Hao) style does the movements with a smaller frame but with mechanics that are more like those seen executed in the Shaolin Rou Quan sets, which is also a small frame set.
Hence, movements can be seen as they evolve from the original Tong Bei to Shaolin Nei Gungs to Shaolin Quan to Chen TJQ to Yang TJQ and on to the Yang derived styles of TJQ. (Note: Zhao Bao TJQ follows the Chen TJQ yi lu set but the physical movements are much more exaggerated than those corresponding in Chen TJQ; instead, the Zhao Bao movements are more like the way that Shaolin TZ Chang Quan, Rou Quan, and Hong Quan are performed (for example, Zhao Bao does not do Brush Knee separately on each side as in Chen TJQ; instead, ZB TJQ does the movement on both knees at the same time, as it is done in Shaolin TZ Chang Quan and Shaolin Rou Quan).
How does ancient Wudang TJQ (not the modern Hong Kong-based style derived from Wu TJQ) fit into this chart? Clearly these TJQ sets are derived from Shaolin sets, which in turn are derived from Tong Bei material. What came first, the Wudang 13 Postures (or Qiamzi Temple 13 Tong Bei Gung) or the Shaolin Luohan 13 Gung? For the most part, Wudang TJQ has similar general mechanics and functional use of the movements but a different sequence of postures in its sets. Chen (and Zhao Bao)/Yang/Wu TJQ sets do not follow the sequences of movements as seen in any Wudang TJQ sets at all; they clearly follow the sequences of movements seen only in these various Shaolin Quan and Nei Gung sets.
There are other Shaolin Rou Quan sets besides the ones shown below, and the interesting thing is that (while there is some overlap of movements and postures) the various Wudang TJQ sets follow the movements of these other Shaolin Rou Quan sets, and NOT the sequences of movements of the Shaolin sets mentioned below. At the same time, the Chen TJQ Yi Lu derived styles do not follow the movements of these other Shaolin Rou Quan sets at all, only those seen in the Shaolin sets mentioned below. Also, while Zhao Bao TJQ follows the same sequence of postures as in the Chen TJQ Yi Lu and the corresponding Shaolin sets, it does follow most of the body mechanics and circular movements as performed in Wudang TJQ (for example the double knee rub movement).
Even so, there is still considerable overlap of postures and movements that are in common between Wudang, Zhao Bao, and Chen TJQ that both are and are not found in Shaolin Rou Quan sets. Most of the postures are very similar between Wudang TJQ and the Chen derived TJQ, but it is the sequences of the postures that are different. The Chen derived TJQ sets clearly follow the frame of the Shaolin sets that are shown below.