"Self-cultivation of the nature is merit, Self-cultivation of the body is virtue."
-Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Chapter 3


“自修性是功,自修身是德”
-六祖坛经,第三品

Shaolin Large Full-Arm Boxing (Chin.: Shàolín Dàtōngbìquán 少林大通臂拳)

Shaolin Large Full-Arm Boxing, herein referred to as Shaolin Datongbiquan, is a commonly practiced traditional boxing set (Chin.: tàolù 套路) of Shaolin. The following is a simple introduction to this set and the subsystem of Shaolin Full-Arm Boxing (Chin.: Shàolín Tōngbìquán 少林通臂拳).


Tongbiquan

Today there are many Chinese styles sharing the name of Tongbiquan. Many of them have origins in Shaolin Monastery (Chin.: Shàolínsì 少林寺), but have developed externally, changing with the style of the local people from region to region. While those styles are not what is taught or practiced in Shaolin Monastery today, they can still be called Shaolin styles. However, they are visually easily distinguishable from Shaolin Monastery Tongbiquan.

The Shaolin Tongbi subsystem includes several boxing sets. For example, Small Full-Arm Boxing (Chin.: Xiǎotōngbìquán 小通臂拳) and Large Full-Arm Boxing (Chin.: Dàtōngbìquán 大通臂拳). Further, there are distinct flavors of Tongbiquan practiced by the monks of the different courtyards of Shaolin Monastery. Ven. Master Shi Suxi (Chin.: Shì Sùxǐ 释素喜) was family-head of the Southern Courtyard (Chin.: Nányuàn 南院), which has its unique flavor of Tongbi boxing sets, referred to as Southern Courtyard Full-Arm Boxing (Chin.: Nányuàn Tōngbìquán 南院通臂拳).

Full-Arm Boxing

The name Tongbi (通臂) is sometimes easily confused with other Chinese styles called Tōngbèi (通背). In these styles, Tong (通) means "to pass through". Bei (背) means "the back" (of the body). The name describes how the energy is sent through the body passing "through-the-back", spiraling out from the spine.

Shaolin Tongbi not only has a different concept, but also different characters. In this case, the character Bì (臂), meaning "arm", is used. It can sometimes be pronounced bèi, which easily leads to confusion of the styles if the characters are not known. Furthermore, in Shaolin Tongbiquan, Tong (通) carries the meaning of the Chinese word tōngtong (通通). It is simply the character meaning "to pass through" doubled. The meaning of this word is "all", "entire", "complete", or "full".

Shaolin Tongbiquan is a type of Pictographic Boxing (Chin.: Xiàngxíngquán 象形拳). Pictographic Boxing usually refers to boxing styles that imitate the actions and mannerisms of animals. Shaolin Tongbiquan is the only type of pictographic boxing that belongs to the non-pictographic boxing styles of Shaolin. That is, it was created according to the long arms of monkeys. However, it only takes over the spirit rather than the form of monkeys. It is therefore not an imitative style in form, only in use. The monkeys' use of the entire length of their arms is what is meant by "full-arm".

Shaolin Tongbiquan sets were created based on three foundations, i.e. Shaolin Small Flood Boxing (Chin.: Xiǎohóngquán 小洪拳), Large Flood Boxing (Chin.: Dàhóngquán 大洪拳) and Monkey Boxing (Chin.: Hóuquán 猴拳). Elements of each can be found in the Tongbiquan sets.

Datongbiquan Mnemonic

Shaolin Datongbiquan is the most widely practiced set from the Shaolin Tongbi subsystem. The names of several movements in the set come from common Chinese idioms, or have Buddhist significance. For example, "Erlang holds mountain" (Chin.: èrláng dānshān 二郎担山). Erlang is a very powerful Chinese god who is said to be able to defeat any opponent while carrying a mountain on each arm. This is the posture which in other sets is commonly called "bow step single whip" (Chin.: gōngbù dānbiān 弓步单鞭), standing in Gongbu with one arm to the front, and one to the back in a straight line. When performing this posture one takes on the power of Erlang. Extended into daily life and practice, one develops the energy to tackle any obstacle while carrying two mountains. In a word, determination! Very important.

"Dancing Flower Kicks" (Chin.: wǔhuā qǐjiǎo 舞花起脚) is another of Buddhist significance. "Dancing Flowers" is an analogy used by Shakyamuni Buddha (Chin.: Shìjiāmóunífó 释迦牟尼佛) in the Shurangama Sutra (Chin.: Léngyánjīng 楞严经) for the aggregate of "form" (Chin.: sèyùn 色蕴). The Buddha says when you press on your eyes you see flowers dancing about in space. Basically they are an illusion. The aggregate of form is the same way. It is a fault in the seeing of unawakened beings.


Many people ask why Shaolin Warrior Monks (Chin.: wǔsēng 武僧) practice such violent techniques. There are more peaceful exercises that can be done. Why punching and kicking?

Basically Shaolin Wugong is only as dangerous as one's state of mind. As John Milton said in Paradise Lost in 1666; "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." Harmfulness comes from the confused mind. "Violent" and "pacifist" are dancing flowers. When one understands this, punches and kicks are too just dancing flowers. When the seeing is faulty they can be solidified and harmful. It is a huge mistake. That is why traditionally a student of Shaolin is instructed in Warrior Ethics (Chin.: Wǔdé 武德) before ever being trained physically, and must study the Buddhadharma (Chin.: Fófǎ 佛法).

Shaolin Datongbiquan Mnemonic (Chin.: gējué 歌诀).:

少林大通臂拳
Shàolín Dàtōngbìquán
Shaolin Large Full-Arm Boxing
(3 sections. 25 postures)

第一段 dìyī duàn - first section
1. golden sand flies from palm (Chin.: 金沙飞掌 jīnshā fēizhǎng)
2. beat tiger lean on mountain (Chin.: dǎhǔ kàoshān 打虎靠山)
3. nail heart with fist (Chin.: dīngxīn biǎoquán 钉心表拳)
4. erlang (Chinese god) holds mountain (Chin.: èrláng dānshān 二郎担山 )
5. double close iron gate (Chin.: shuāngguān tiěmén 双关铁门 )
6. flash gate with cannon fist (Chin.: shǎnmén pàoquán 闪门炮拳)
7. golden child offers diagram (Chin.: jīntóng xiàntú 金童献图)
8. thousand pound smashing fist (Chin.: qiānjīn záquán 千斤砸拳)

第二段 dìèr duàn - second section

9. draw bow release arrow (Chin.: lāgōng shèjiàn 拉弓射箭)
10. sparrow hawk overturns mountain (Chin.: yàozi fānshān 鹞子翻山)
11. hide flowers under arm (1) (Chin.: yèxià cánghuā (yī) 腋下藏花 (一))
12. hide flowers under arm (2) (Chin.: yèxià cánghuā (èr) 腋下藏花 (二))
13. single wind pierces through ear (Chin.: dānfēng guàn ěr 单风贯耳)
14. chase wind join together (Chin.: zhuīfēng xiānglián 追风相连)
15. steal sheep in passing (Chin.: shùnshǒu qiānyáng 顺手牵羊)
16. fierce tiger jumps mountain stream (Chin.: měnghǔ tiàojiàn 猛虎跳涧)

第三段 dìsān duàn - third section
17. use seal to overturn heaven (Chin.: zhíyìn fāntiān 执印翻天)
18. heavenly king supports pagoda (Chin.: tiānwáng tuōtǎ 天王托塔)
19. observe scenery move mountain (Chin.: guānjǐng yíshān 观景移山)
20. pearl roll curtain (Chin.: zhēnzhū juǎnlián 珍珠卷簾)
21. thunder god (leigong) flies across sky (Chin.: léigōng fēitiān 雷公飞天)
22. double wind pierces through ears (Chin.: shuāngfēng guàn ěr 双凤贯耳)
23. calm fist reins in horse (Chin.: lèmǎ ānquán 勒马安拳)
24. dancing flower kick (Chin.: 舞花起脚 wǔhuā qǐjiǎo)
25. five flowers sit on mountain (Chin.: wǔhuā zuòshān 五花坐山)

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Master Shi Deyang (Chin.: Shì Déyáng Fǎshī 释德扬法师) demonstrates Shaolin Datongbiquan inside the Thousand Buddha Hall (Chin.: Qiānfódiàn 千佛殿) of Shaolin Monastery.:

video


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www.ShaolinChanCity.com

Discuss this article on the forum....

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10 comments:

thefoxclaw said...

Hi, :-) very very nice blog
I like it very much :-)
I'm an italian student and researcher of chan philosophy and shaolin wugong :-)

I appreciate this effort to show the right content of this beautiful way of mind.

Like reasearcher of shaolin wugong i study the gongjia and kuenpo that are inside the traditional shaolin lu, i have read the gongjia of datongbiquan "beat tiger lean on mountain, ecc" i have an ask for you, can you put here even the xiaotongbiquan gongjia?

very thanks :-)

thefoxclaw

SCC said...

Hi, thanks for your comment!

This blog is young. I have a lot planned for it, but I also have a lot I have not translated yet, and Xiaotongbiquan is rather long.

The translations must be fitting and accurate, along with a full article. When I have some free time, I will do my best!

thefoxclaw said...

Hi, :-)
You have explained that DaTongBi Quan form is not TongBEI Quan,but i have even read "back through boxing" like english translation in the vcd of Shi De Yang Tongbi quan form...
I dont understand this...
Do you know a youtube link of correct tongBEI quan form?

Thanks

thefoxclaw said...

Look this video and signature :-)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnjpCj9Ehgs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSNB4ZNfs6k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plU5pj-7HSk&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od-vIuaMLQE

Are all named tong BEI quan and translated like back-through boxing...and are all the same form that you explain in your article.
Why you say that tongbi is not tongbei??

SCC said...

As explained in the article, the character for "arm" (臂) can be pronounced either "bì" or "bei". Pronounced either way, it is the same character.

When you see or hear "bei", it does not necessarily mean "back" (背). Notice the different character.

The videos you linked to were posted by non-Chinese whom I am quite certain do not speak Chinese. I know a couple of them.

The translation "through the back" is a mistake. Shaolin Tongbiquan does not use the character for "back" like other Chinese styles called "Tongbeiquan" (which it gets confused with), but the character for "arm" (whether pronounced tongbi or tongbei).

It is the same widespread misunderstanding with Xiao/Dahongquan being translated as "Little/Big RED Fist". (You can read the articles on these sets to see the correct translation and explanation.)

As for the translations on the VCDs, they were done by the Qiao Jia Ren company. What I have seen said "arms through". Either way, look at the characters and you will know which is correct.

Other translations from them have been less than standard. For example, I saw one that translated "Fashi" (法师), meaning "Dharma-master", as "Rabbi", calling Master Deyang a Jewish leader...

The point of this blog is to share more accurate information regarding Traditional Shaolin Culture topics. Misinformation spreads quickly as more people become interested in Shaolin, but do not bother learning the language and history. Simply repeating what others say makes it spread like wildfire, especially online.

thefoxclaw said...

can you post me a link of a tongBEI form? (if there's on youtube or similar database)...

I think that i never see anything of tongBEI :-) i have ever seen tongBI thinking that was tongBEI
:-)

thanks

SCC said...

There are many styles with the name Tongbeiquan throughout China. So they can differ quite a bit from region to region/family to family.

Type in 通背拳 on Youtube and you will find many videos. The styles are visually very different from Shaolin Tongbiquan, or anything from Songshan Shaolin tradition.

thefoxclaw said...

Hi, my friend! :-)
how are you?
i hope well...your blog is still...you haven't added other post from this summer...
i hope you dont have stopped this beautiful work!
if you can add some form description like animal (wu xing quan) forms ;-)

bye!

SCC said...

Hi,

Yes, there has been a pause in the articles. Shaolin Chan City is currently "expanding" behind the scenes. You will see soon!

Hope all is well with you!

G. Gabriel G. said...

Excellent website! Amituofo!
Greetings from a Shoalin Wugong Student in Tampa, FL!