Wuzuquan – “Five Ancestors Fist” – is a Chinese martial art. It is comprised of five gongfu systems, aspects of which were blended together to make a new art. Therefore it is not true to say that to study Wuzuquan is to learn five different arts. Nor is this fusion entirely unique: there is a great deal of overlap and exchange between different Chinese arts.
Wuzuquan practitioners dispute the origins of the art and don’t even agree on which five styles constitute it. The major historical scenarios are:
- That Bai Yu Feng, a White Crane master, visited Shaolin with his son and worked with four other experts to create the new art. This is the version of Wuzuquan history Chee Kim Thong imparted. It fits with recent comprehensions of Shaolin as a site of exchange that was visited by diverse Zen and gongfu experts. Different accounts of Bai Yu Feng place him anywhere from the 12th to the 17th century
- That Cai Yu Ming invented Wuzuquan in the late-19th century. I find this unlikely as when Lim Hian met Chee Kim Thong around 1930, Lim was already old: he was alive in Cai Yu Ming’s time. Lim would not have taught Master Chee the Bai Yu Feng version of Wuzuquan history if the Cai Yu Ming scenario was correct
- Some confuse Five Ancestors with the Five Elders (separate people in a separate incident), Five Animals or the Five Elements (different arts altogether)
The five arts that comprise Wuzuquan are:
- Luohan, named for the Buddhist immortals. This is the classic Shaolin art (Monk Fist). It includes the breath techniques of Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who brought Zen to Shaolin. Wuzuquan‘s punching, breath techniques and footwork originate in Luohan
- Da Sheng, the Monkey King’s art, gives Wuzuquan its agility
- White Crane (Baihe) develops sinews and speed of attack
- Taizuquan, Emperor’s Fist, contributes Wuzuquan‘s physical power
- The Nun’s Art of Xuannu (‘the Mysterious Woman’) is the basis of Wuzuquan‘s soft techniques
The various lineages of Wuzuquan emphasise different ancestors and can appear completely different arts.
The most common Wuzuquan uses the physical strength of Taizuquan. When Chan See-meng first met Yap Cheng Hai, Yap taught him the Taizu style of Wuzu that he learned under Sim Yong Der in Singapore. Subsequently the two became Master Chee’s disciples.
Chee Kim Thong taught the White Crane lineage but was notoriously secretive about the refinements associated with the Crane.
Liao Wuchang, a master of Wuzuquan‘s Monkey lineage, demonstrated at the Open Invitation South East Asia Demonstration (in Singapore, 1965 and 1967), at which Chee Kim Thong was a judge.