Fan Family Baguazhang was created by Fan Zhiyong (1840-1922) of Zheng Bai Banner in Manchu nationality. Fan, also called “Fan the Madman”, started martial arts practice in his childhood and for eight years learnt mainly Shaolin boxing and Tan Tui. Later, being already a skilful martial artist, Fan became Dong Haichuan’s disciple and studied Baguazhang with Dong. After years of hard practice, Fan received true transmission from his teacher and achieved a high level of skill. He was not only very powerful, but also proficient in free fighting and Qinna.

In 1898 Fan Zhiyong, invited by Liu Baozhen, moved with whole family to Gu’an County in Hebei Province, and stayed there for three years. At that time in Xi Hong Buddhist Temple he killed a famous local gang leader, a bandit called “Hei Luozi” (Black Mule). This incident was witnessed by Fan’s daughter, Fan Fenglan, at that time fourteen years old.

In the first years of the Republic of China (1911-1949), Lu Jinggui in his “Complete Manual of Cao’s Baguazhang” in the part on Dong Haichuan, wrote: (...) the most famous of his disciples were six man: Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, Ma Weiqi, Song Changrong, Liu Fengchun and Fan the Madman. Fan Zhiyong once spent 49 days in Prince Su Palace alone with Dong Haichuan where he learnt Buddhist and Taoist combined method called “Wu Ji Baguazhang”, also called “Nei Quan Baguazhang” (Inner Circle Baguazhang).

Inner Circle Baguazhang does not have fixed routines, but, everytime it is practiced it becomes a natural routine. However, since Fan Zhiyong practiced external boxing prior to Bagua studies, there are fixed weapons and empty hands routines in his style.

Inner Circle Baguazhang is practiced in the following way:

Beginners should first practice basic exercises like “Zhuang Gong” (Standing Pole Method) and “Dan Cao Zhang” (Single Technique Palm). Then, after a year of two, the teacher takes them to a room where they first pay respect to the pictures of Da Mo (Boddhidarma) and Dong Haichuan, and then the teacher leads them through exercise (this method is similar to that used in Qigong practice with the exception that in Qigong there are only few movements, while Fan family method has palm and fist techniques, body movements, footwork). The essentials for this method are: sincerity during practice, Intention guides all the movements, being natural. Length of practice depends on the basic skill of practitioner and his Wuxing (power of understanding).

Since Fan Family Baguazhang has exceptional teaching methods, therefore the teacher is very careful about choosing students and teaches them very strictly. For this reason there were only few practitioners of this style. Fan Zhiyong taught Wang Zhi, Ning Hongliang, Li Ziyan, Za Lifen, Ao Qinghua, Tao Yongfu, Fan Fenglan, Shi Qingsheng and others. However, most of them did not inherit the art, only Fan Fenglan and Shi Qingsheng passed it to few disciples.

Fan Fenglan (1884-1967) was Fan Zhiyong’s only daughter. She enjoyed high prestige in martial arts circles, especially among Baguazhang practitioners. She was one of Three Elders of Beijing Bagua circles in the sixties (along with Guo Gumin, Liang Zhenpu’s disciple; and Cheng Youxin, Cheng Tinghua’s son). Since she was very honest, sincere and kind person, people called her with respect Fan “Dagu” – Fan Old Aunt. Fan Fenglan learnt from her father since early age and, as she was a bright and diligent student, received true transmission from him and became inheritor of the complete art of Baguazhang. Her most famous disciples were Yi Shilin, Zhao Zhihai, Wang Zengku, Wang Yuan, Wang Gang and Wen Dasheng.

Wen Dasheng started his Fan Family Baguazhang practice at the age of fifteen. Since Fan Fenglan, when already old, realized that the art would vanish if taught according to traditional methods, she was teaching him using many examples, with all the details and explanations. In this way Teacher Wen was able to master Fan Family Old Palms and weapons routines. In the seventies Wen decided to systematize the style, and his first article on “The Eight Forms of Fan Family Bagua Rotating Palm for Beginners” was published in 1984. Later Wen Dasheng also published articles on Collapsing Palm of Fan Family Bagua, Eight Methods Linked Palms, Jin Gang (Vajra) Great Strength Method, Linked Broadsword Form, etc. Besides, Wen summarized Twenty Four Essentials (twenty four characters) of Fan’s Baguazhang.

Original article link J.Szymanski 1999

Philip Morrell 2016