by Wang Xuanjie (Translated by Chen Shengtao)
DACHENGQUAN is a set of barehanded exercises for health-keeping and combat. It was developed by my instructor Wang Xiangzhai in Beijing in the 1940s. The following anecdotes about him will help you learn something more about Wang and his dachengquan.
When Wang Xiangzhai created dachengquan half a century ago, wushu which waspopular among the folk was not much to the original and had become a showpiece rather than a fitness exercise and combat skill. To preserve the quintessence of traditional Chinese wushu, there was every need for all martial artists to pay attention to the prevailing deviation and make concerted efforts for a renewal. His determined resolution strengthened as he saw the Japanese invaders beating their victims of occupation for fun in Beijing. “We are a great nation,” he said indignantly. “How can we put upwith such insults?”
Then, while absorbing strong points of various schools of wushu, he created a style of barehanded exercises Dachengquan. To spread the newly emerging routine far and wide, Wang recruited a large number of youngsters and gave them lessons personally. His aim was very clear and that was to help boost the morale of the Chinese people and counter foreign pugilism. He issued a statement in a local newspaper and declared that he was ready to take on any rivals including those coming from foreign countries.
Wang’s remark angered Kenichi Sawai, a Japanese martial artist then living in Beijing. Sawai was good at karate, swordplay and judo. In his eyes, Chinese wushu was only something like gymnastics, having little value in actual fights. So, one day, he went to call at Wang’s in the hope of showing off his prowess. When he saw Wang Xiangzhai, he found that the Chinese shadow boxer, a man of middle stature clad in long gown, looked very gentle and suave. He was very happy to meet with such a weakling, thinking that he would win without fail. After introducing himself and explaining why he hadcome, he produced a newspaper which carried Wang’s statement and tossed it on a table.
“You are ready to have a dual fight, aren’t you?” asked the Japanese karate practitioner, his face wreathed in contemptuous smiles. “Yes, I am,” retorted sneeringly my instructor. “I always mean what I have said. I would never refuse anyone who wants to compete with me. Foreign martial artists are especially welcome.” Hearing that, Sawai went out of the drawing roomand stood in the courtyard waiting for a duel. Without any hesitation, Wang came out with hands placed behind his back. Directing his strength to bothhands through concentration, Sawai assumed a horse-riding stance and launched a sudden attack on Wang’s face with hands. Seeing this, my instructor, his left hand remaining still, extended his right forearm to parry Sawai’s hands. Then, with a slight exertion of strength, Wang threw the Japanese muscle man 10 feet away. Before realizing what had happened, Sawai was already Lying on the ground on his back.
Not admitting defeat, Sawai wanted to have a swordplay contest with Wang because he was so skilled at it that he could cut an apple on the head of aman into two without hurting the head. Considering that Sawai should get an idea of what Chinese swordplay was, Wang agreed to have another contest. With a sword held overhead in his hands, Sawai delivered a hard blow at Wang’s head. Wang stepped a bit to the right and wielded his sword to block the opposing sword. As the two swords clanked, Sawai was also thrown several feet away and flattened with his palms benumbed. (According to the son of Sawai, they did not fight with swords but with sticks.)
Irreconciled, Sawai rose to his feet and pounced upon Wang with his sword towards the throat. This skill is very famous in Japanese swordplay, with which one can catch his rival off guard. However, Wang was so good at Chinese swordplay that it seemed as if he did not make use of eyes but sense only in a fight. Wang turned his body to the right slightly, leaving Sawai’sattack wide of the mark. In another instant, Wang pressed his sword against his opponent’s. Sawai tried hard to draw his sword back, only to no avail, since it was “pasted” fast to Wang’s at the guard of the hilt. When Wang mustered up his strength, Sawai was flung out and slammed against a nearby door which caved in as a result.
Later on, Sawai engaged Wang in a qinna-something like judo- contest. By then, he was already a 5 – dan judoka in Japan. However, he could never get hold of Wang by the sleeve or the front in competition, no matter how hard he tried. Instead, he was grasped by Wang as soon as they came to grips.
Then came an Italian boxer who had made a name for himself in West Europe.His surname was James. When he was on a tour in Beijing, he learned that Wang Xiangzhai, founder of dachengquan, was looking for a rival, so he was also eager to have a try believing that it was a good chance for him to earn fame in China.
After exchanging a few words at Wang’s, they came out into the courtyard and began to warm up for competition.
James, with shorts only on, put on a pair of gloves and gave several straight punches to a thick tree and leaves fluttered down from the swaying branches. When James took off his boxinggloves and changed into a pair of cotton-yarn ones and assumed a boxer’s classic stance, the onlookers on the scene held their breath. The alien contestant appeared so powerful, so muscular and so agile, and he dwarfed Wang by a head. Could Wang be his match? Looking as calm as ever before,Wang was all geared for the contest, with his right hand in front of the chest. James was an experienced boxer endowed with long and powerful arms and highly proficient in the art. With his right hand in front and left hand at his lower jaw, he suddenly delivered a straight left to Wang’s face. As James came up with his fist, Wang raised his right forearm for a parry and in quick succession made a powerful push that shot James up and grounded him six feet off. Without knowing what it was all about, James rose to his feet and composed himself for another bout. This time, he changed tactics. He first made an arm feint and then gave his chest a right uppercut. Turning slightly to the left, Wang put his right wrist gently on the right elbow of James, who felt benumbed all over at once, and collapsed on the ground after tottering for a moment.
Now, he realized that he was not as good at fighting skills as Wang, which should account for his previous defeats. However, he thought he could outplay his rival in the third bout; he believed that he was much more powerful than Wang. To show this Italian boxer what Chinese boxing was really like, Wang asked James to punch his chest and ribs. A hail of hardblows followed and Wang was as firm as a rock. Getting desperate, James gathered all his strength and landed a heavy punch on Wang’s abdomen withhis right hand. Wang’s abdomen heaved a bit and James fell down onto theground with his right wrist sprained.
Later, a Mongolian wrestler, who had been living in the suburbs of Beijing, came to compete with Wang Xiangzhai. This story sounds quite incredible, but it has been on the lips of martial artists to date. Named Bator, this lad was a son of a former official in charge of military affairs in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Bator began to learn xingyiquan (form-and-will shadowboxing) from his father at the age of 14 and took a fancy to archery and horsemanship four years later.When he was 20 years old, he started to practice wrestling under the guidance of a former imperial court trainer. After five or six years of training, he made rapid progress and became quite versed in wrestling. He was strong enough that he could subdue a galloping horse. One day on his way home, a shying horse ran up to him, pursued by a yelling crowd. When the horse arrived in front of him, this Mongolian wrestler first moved aside, then, to the great surprise of the pursuers,jumped forth to catch the horse by the neck and upset it.
When he heard that Wang Xiangzhai was willing to have contests with other wushu devotees, Bator went into the city to rise to the challenge. At the start of the contest in Wang’s courtyard, the two stood a few meters apart, face to face. Bator moved forward, trying to throw Wang down with a unique skill he had mastered in wrestling training. As they were about to come into contact, a small insect buzzed into Wang’s left ear. Disturbed as he was,Wang continued with his firm steps forward while picking his ear with hisleft little finger. At the sight of this, Bator jumped out of the way and, bowing to Wang with his hands folded in front, said: “You are so good at martial arts. I am no match for you.” The two exchanged a smile out of their tacit understanding for each other and the contest thus ended. The onlookers were all in a maze. One of them asked Bator, “How come you acknowledged defeat? You should have a try for it.” “As an old saying goes, a master knows what a man he is fighting against the moment he takes the opponent on. He was so sedate and self assured at this juncture that he could afford to pick his ear. If he was not an adept in the art, how could he have so much confidence in winning the contest?”
In the year he developed dachengquan, Wang Xiangzhai kept having contests with dozens of martial artists, Chinese and foreign. They all came in confidence, but went in failure. Since then, the name of Wang Xiangzhai has spread far and wide and dachengquan become a beautiful blossom in the flowergarden of Chinese wushu.
Reference: Martial Arts of China Vol. 1, No. 7 , Page 297
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988