Grandmaster Bai Wenxiang

(Exerpt from "Kung Fu Tai Chi" Magazine, December 2010 edition)

Grandmaster Bai Wenxiang (白文祥) is one of the architects of theupcoming duansystem for fanziquan. Fanziquan was mentioned inQi Jiguang’s (戚繼光) seminal treatise, Ji Xiao Xin Shu (New BookRecording Effective Techniques 紀效新書). Published in 1560, Qi'sbook is one of the earliest extant publications to discuss martialarts forms. Fanziquan is a long-fist style, with intricate flashing arm techniques, and is closely connected with eagle style. Legend may cite other styles as having earlier origins, but the records show that fanziquan was indeed one of the very first recorded styles.

Grandmaster Bai has been an insider withinthe advancement of modern wushu sinceitsinception. It's a position he holds as a staunch advocate of traditional styles like fanzi. He is one of those unique elder masters who stand firmly with a foot in both the worlds of traditional martial arts and modern wushu.  Beyond being a leading master offanziquan, Bai is known for coaching one of the greatest wushu champions the world has ever seen: Zhao Changjun (趙长軍).  

 

Born in 1947, Bai's own competitive years precede the invention of modern wushu, theCWA and IWuF(established in 1990). Back in Bai's day, everything was traditional since modern wushu hadn't been invented yet. Bai's father was a martial artist who encouraged his son to study at a young age. Baitrained under Master Zhang Tong (張桐) for three years and developed enough skill to make theShaanxi Province professional team by age twelve. He was the team's youngest member.  By the '60s, provincial governments were already supporting martial arts teams. Team members were provided with coaches, facilities,living, board and a stipend. There were some preliminary compulsory forms likechangquan, but even that had a much more traditional flavor, according to Bai. The traditional styles like huaquan (flower fist 華拳), chaquan(seeking fist 查拳), paoquan(cannon fist 砲拳)and shaolinquan could still be seen embedded in changquan. In addition to changquan,competition forms were compiled from traditional styles. Traditional compilations weighed equally with the changquan compulsoryfor scoring.Bai entered the pro team with three styles already under his belt – liuhequan(six harmony 六合), xingyiquan and baguazhang. While on the team, he trained infanziquan, bajiquan and piguaquan (hanging chop 劈掛拳). Bai trained in these three traditional styles specifically to improve his performance incompetition. He remained on the team as a competitor for a decade.  

In 1969, martial arts development came to an abrupt halt due to the Cultural Revolution. Nothing happened and Bai found work as a typist. But as soon as that passed, he was coaching and competing again. In 1974, Bai captured 4th place all around and 2ndplace in staff at the China National Games.  Bai competed throughout the‘70s and continued coaching after that.  According to Bai, traditional and modern were viewed with equal importance into the‘80s. He cites ZhaoChangjun, who was traditionally coached and garnered more wins than anyone else during the ‘80s. In 1987, Bai was the China National Team coach. He later returned to Shaanxi to be head coach of theShaanxi Provincial team from 1998 to 2005.