Fu Meilan : Baguazhang
For many years (from 1990) I studied in Guangzhou (Southern China) the marvelous Fu Zhensong's Baguazhang. As said in other texts, formerly I saw some films of Mrs Bowsim Mark (in Chinese: Mai Baochan) performing Liangyi and Bagua and I loved them. As early as in 1988 I failed to contact the Fu family but in 1990 I suceeded in knowing the old Fu Yonghui (Cantonese: Fu Wingfay) and in receiving instruction from his sons, Fu Wenlong and Fu Meilan. From those days I worked extensively and intensively on Fu style Baguazhang, learning Yin-Yang Bagua forms, Longxing Baguazhang, Longxing Bagua tuishou, Bagua weapons and so on. Furthermore I studied Taijiquan.
Fu Wenlong and Fu Meilan were good teachers. I felt as a pity that their father, in his eighty, could not teach anymore(he is dead now). I began the training directly with Longxing Baguazhang and only in the following years I studied Yin and Yang Bagua etc. Fu Meilan said me, in 1992, that she had about twenty students in Guangzhou (but she was teaching in Hongkong too) that were taught Fu shi Taijiquan, Liangyiquan, Sixiangquan and, in the order, Baguazhang. To my question: " Why Baguazhang is not taught before", she simply said: " Keyi ", i.e. "it is possible", "it is the same thing (to teach it before or later)".
I saw Fu Meilan in a demonstration in Guangzhou, she was performing Lianyiquan and I was astonished from her power and grace. Dressed in white, she looked as a martial goddess.
I did some questions on the origins of Fu family Baguazhang but I only received the name Jia Qishan as the Fu Zhensong's teacher: Both Meilan and Fu Wenlong did not seem concerned with historical problems.
Who was Jia Qishan (also called Jia Fengming)? We really don't know. Also in Baguazhang circles in China there is uncertainty about him. In the Fu Yonghui's book Longxing baguazhang we only can read that " Fu shi Longxing Baguazhang was created by fu Zhensong. My dead father as a young joined Master Jia Fengming (also called Qishan) to study Baguazhang; Jia Fengming was an advanced student of Bagua Great master Dong Haichuan".
Fu Zhensong in "Longxing Baguazhang"
According the same book Fu, also called Qiankun (Heaven-Earth) was born in 1881 in a farmers family in Mabo, a village in Xinyang xian, Henan province. As many other children of that time, he was very weak but in the years the practice of Martial Arts made him very powerful. In the village he practiced first Chen style Taijiquan with Master Chen Yanxi of Chenjiakou and Baguazhang with Jia Qishan. The book does not provide temporality for these studies. According supplementary informations from Pa-kua Chang Journal. (October 1992 , p. 3) Fu first would study Chen style Taiji and when Chen Yanxi left, he studied under Jia Qishan who was hired from a wealth man of the village, Liu Zuoren, to substitute Chen Yanxi. According this information, Jia Qishan came from Beijing.
After studying with Jia for a number of years, Fu went to Beijing (he was 17 years old, therefore in 1898). Some say that he studied there with Ma Gui, the most famous student of yin Fu and also direct student of Don Haichuan (this story was first said from Lin Chaozhen and then repeated from Liang Qiangya, both two Fu direct students). Other people say that he studied under Cheng Tinghua (this was said me from Fu Meilan too, but she said this with a grade of uncertainty in her voice).
It is well known that after this, he had friends as Sun Lutang , Yang Chenfu and the famous sword master General Li Jinglin and with them he exchanged techniques, learning in this way the Sun and Yang style Taijiquan. According a paper in an old issue of Wulin magazine (I quote by memory) Fu Zhensong partecipated with his old master Jia Qishan when the Wudang sword two-man sets were created by Song Weiyi and Li Jinglin. So, according this source, Jia Qishan would be well known in Beijing Martial arts circles!
Personally I don't see anything of Cheng Tinghua Baguazhang in Fu school (it lacks, for example, of the traditional Cheng's secund change, Yaozi zuan tian "Hawk soars in the sky") and, instead, having studied the Dragon form of Yin Fu school master Xie Pei Qi, I saw there a lot of striking resemblances with Fu style maneuvers. Furthermore the form Shaolin Paoquan (transformed in Baoquan) is the same performed by Yin Fu and resemblances can be seen also in other forms, as the spear or the staff.
Lin Chaozhen says that, among the most common Bagua forms, he first learnt Yang Baguazhang. Now Yang Baguazhang has a great use of Pi -to split- in the changes and, altough not unique, this is another strong feature of Yin Fu Baguazhang not so much used in Cheng Tinghua's style. By the way Yin Bagua was created by Fu when he was ageing, to perform Bagua at a moderate pace.
Also Liang Qiangya says (Pa-kua Chang Journal Oct. 1996, p. 5) that " as Fu Zhensong grew older, he began to simplify his practice. In his later years he concentrated all of his knowledge into a couple of simple forms by developing his 'Taiji Lightning Palm' form and his 'Liangyi Fist'. In creating these forms, Fu took the essence of Baguazhang and the Sun, yang, and Chen styles of Taiji, extracted moves from his other forms such as Liangyi, Sixiang, and the Bgua Dragon form, and added his favorite moves from all of the forms and sequences that he knew".
Fu style Baguazhang is famous for its spinning, twisting and spiraling movements and for its rippling step , not known in other bagua schools. By the way, right this lectio difficilior, i.e. this unorthodox way of stepping makes me feel the authenticity of the Fu Bagua tradition and its coming from the Yin Fu school. Really we can read in a book of a Yin Fu school teacher, Liu Yongchun, Yinshi Baguazhang shimi (Beijing, 1998, p. 27) that " sometimes Master Ma Gui also used the heel of the foot (jiaogen) when walking the circle". Now this is exactly the way the rippling step is performed. In the same passage we read that in the Ma Gui striking, "wrist strikes were relatively many" and we can see that Yang Baguazhang secund change has just this strike. This would not be conclusive, because also in Cheng style this way of striking is known, but so many signs point to one direction: Ma Gui.
If I was asked what is the fighting essence of Fu school baguazhang I would answer that it has a rather hard striking system and its core stays in circling around the enemy and to strike his back. This is said also of the two-man form "Longxing Bagua tuishou". I say that this is the essence. For reaching this target, the Fu stylist does not hesitate to jump and to grab the adversary from behind. This necessity, to circle around the adversary, needs the use of the open form of the bagua stance, to say when doing koubu , otherwuise the fight is frontal.
So Fu style Baguazhang, while having really nice forms to see, has practical fighting principles too!