Home Articles A Profile of Mian Quan Boxing
A Profile of Mian Quan Boxing
Written by Rose   
Monday, 01 March 2010 19:52




Story by Rose Oliver 
Photos by Wang Ming Bo & Rose Oliver

Mian Quan or as it’s sometimes referred to in the west, “Cotton Fist”, is a well known art in China, whilst at the same time, one that is still shrouded in a cloud of mystery and secrecy.
So, what is Mian Style Boxing?




?The character of “Mian” (绵) in Chinese means “soft, or continuous, or unbroken” and is occasionally confused and mistranslated from the character “Mian” (棉) which means cotton.
Mian Style is characterized by constant “hardness and power” working in continuous harmony with “softness and fluidity”; which translates in action as a constant coupling of attack and defence.

But its most important and unique characteristic is its use of Chinese characters or calligraphy in its fighting movements and form.
In Mian Quan, the practitioner seeks to understand the way Chinese characters are formed by the individual strokes or lines and how to correlate these strokes into a series of continuous defensive and attacking physical moves.
For example, the character of “Mian” (绵) in Chinese means continuous or nonstop and is made up of 11 separate strokes of the calligraphy brush; these individual strokes are translated into 11 techniques or moves, combining offensive and defensive applications that will flow together smoothly.

To master the techniques in Mian Quan, the student must know how to write the individual word or character and then later they can learn how to put words into a sequence or “sentence” to make a complete system or form.



?If we analyze a simpler character, like “Wai” 外,which can be used to mean outside or foreign, we can see it is made up of 5 separate strokes.

If we take the character apart, we can see the first stroke is a downward, diagonally angled stroke, joined to a similar longer stroke (strokes 1 and 2); these represent a two-handed blocking protective technique and an attack?with the elbow to the head or face; following this kind of strike, it’s quite common for an opponent to lean their head backwards, or to try to lean the head away from the incoming assault, which opens up the front of the body and in particular the groin area.
The remaining parts of the character can then be employed; there can be a head butt attack, as represented by the small dot in the middle of the two parallel slanting strokes (stroke 3), followed by a double palm strike, with one hand running upwards into the groin and the other downwards to the head simultaneously (stroke 4).?

These two strikes are made simultaneously with both hands and ends with the intention of a twisting or wrenching action and explosion of power being applied into the opponent, when both hands make contact, thus we also can get the final outside “dot” part of the calligraphy stroke when the hands meet (stroke 5).
The idea is to take advantage of the opponent’s natural reactions to your moves and take advantage of his vulnerable areas.



In Taiji Quan, masters often talk about the principle of 绵绵不断”Mian Mian Bu Duan” being employed throughout the form and in combat, which means that one’s movements must be fluid and continuous, without breaks or stalls in the flow of energy or intention.
In Mian Quan, the practitioner also applies the same principle, equating to a constant flow of attacking and counter-attacking moves without cease.

Master Zhu Ji Fa, who is now 64 years old, began training when he was 18.? His initial training was in Shao Lin and Xin Yi, continuing his training in Xing Yi when he was 20. He began training in Mian Quan when he was 21 years old (around 1966) with Master Chen Lai Zhen, who was then in his 90’s.
Master Zhu met his Mian Quan teacher when they were both climbing Chang Feng Mountain in Suzhou, where they got into a lively debate about the efficacy, or not, of certain martial arts. Master Zhu found that he could not overcome the 93 year old master, and came to the conclusion that he had encountered a highly efficient and very skillful martial art, which was of a much greater level than those he had previously trained in.
Master Chen’s movements were extremely fast, smooth and continuous and Zhu was unable to keep up with Chen or defend against his strikes.

Zhu said that although in age, Master Chen was of advanced years, he was very healthy and active, not only because of his martial arts training, but also?due to his internal training, qigong practice, Chinese medicine and herbal remedies.
He taught Master Zhu many secret practices within the Mian Quan system, also passing on many of his treatises and transcripts on Mian Quan, which Master Zhu has worked on since that time.

Master Zhu, who began suffering from a debilitating disorder of the nervous system (something akin to multiple sclerosis) over 20 years ago, is a devout Buddhist and spends considerable time in seated meditation and contemplation, devoting his entire life to the furtherance of his beloved Mian Quan, his internal practice and to his self cultivation.
He began teaching his son Zhu Rong Guan (who has also studied Chinese Wrestling and Xing Yi) when his son was around 7-8 years of age (he’s now 37 years old) and continues to pass down his art to future generations.

According To Master Zhu, Mian Quan was first recorded as a pugilistic art form in 1368. It can be traced back to a similar art called, “Yin Yang Rou Quan” (Soft Fluid Changing Boxing Style) that was practiced in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) and incorporated the core elements of Mian Style.?
It further evolved when a previous “Mian Quan” master Chen Xiao Fa crossed hands with a Tong Bei master Guo Yong Fa; the pair became friends and started to hone and refine the system, which later became known as Mian Quan.
Since that time, it has been continually practiced and developed until the present day and because of its unique style and reputation in pugilistic combat, Mian Style continues in popularity.
Mian Quan consists of 2 types of training philosophies, one of action and movement, the other a meditative form of therapy, or health exercise.
The active training methodology is made up of basic foundation exercises, animal forms and power training and using the form of written Chinese characters as a pugilistic instrument.

The meditation aspect of training has exercises to benefit the internal organs, a system of deep breathing and exercises for the spirit and energy, consisting of the “16 Bars of Gold” Qigong system; so named because traditionally to learn it a student had to pay a high tuition fee!

The animal forms are somewhat similar to Xing Yi’s animal forms, whereby they mimic the movements and spirit of certain animals; in Mian Quan the animals are the dragon, lion, tiger, chicken, eagle, horse, snake and bear.
The main difference between the lion and tiger being that the lion’s potential energy is terrifying, so the form movements have to accentuate this feature,
projecting a sort of electrifying intensity in the movements, and ferocious spirit in the eyes and intention.
In the forms, many applications and names of the movements relate to the lions that adorn ancient houses and official residences, acting as “portal guards”.

The two lions at the gates of temples and homes are always male and female, one holding its young, which represents the female, with the male holding a sphere or ball in its paw.
The form names & techniques mirror the lion’s spirit and movements, as well as incorporating the portal guards’ traditional poses, for example:
Lion’s Song Form, The Lion Pounces and Brings Down its Prey; The Lion Opens its Jaws; Lion Plays with the Sphere; Lion Frolicking; Lion Pounces; The Lion Roars Ferociously.

The combination of the different techniques above, encapsulate a kind of roundness in the movements that engulf and cover the opponent, whilst penetrating his defence with an array of close-quarter elbow, shoulder and head attacks, with strikes to the vulnerable areas.
The roundness in the movements also produce a flowing effect and smooth transition between techniques, which results in a continuous stream of attacking moves; that, coupled with the ferocious spirit learned through the animal training, ultimately overwhelm the opponent.

Master Zhu said the reason he chose to learn martial arts was because he often had to go on business to outer provinces and as he was slightly built, he felt it was important to be able to defend himself physically.
Mian Quan attracted him due to its pugilistic reputation and its systematic approach to the art of self-defence.

This aspect of Mian Quan, along with the “Calligraphy & Sentence” training, make it unique among Chinese martial arts, plus adds to its mysticism, with much of its training being done behind closed doors, never in the parks or?public places; which have led to the popular misconception that Mian Quan has no forms, only basic training drills.
In fact, not only are there forms, but Mian Quan practitioners also do some spear training, to help build internal power.
Mian Quan’s qigong and meditative training are designed to help the internal organs and increase the circulation of blood and energy through the body.
They also help train the heart and mind and intention, plus cultivate deep breathing techniques that are designed to keep open both the windpipe and the oesophagus, maintaining the same diameters of both tubes as practitioners grow older, thus ensuring longevity and good health into old age.
As people get older, their breath often becomes shallower as their windpipes shrink and lose their elasticity and their swallowing ability weakens; many elderly people have problems swallowing food and sometimes even choke on their food; but with Mian Quan’s qigong techniques, elderly practitioners can maintain their health and keep their breathing smooth, even and deep.
In Chinese they say, “Breath is Life”, and in the past, high level Qigong masters wished to refine their breathing skills to be able to ultimately take only one inhalation during the morning and one exhalation in the evening!
These meditative qigong techniques were known as the “16 Bars of Gold” Qigong system and followed similar techniques and principles that many animals, like whales and other creatures utilize and master.

One meditation practiced, talks about how to concentrate and still the mind in order to try and reach this kind of level: “Xin Yue Gu Xuan, Guan Tun Wan Xiang”; “When the mind is pure, it shines forth like the beam of the moon, when the mind is still, the entire world becomes clear and serene”.

Ultimately the Mian Quan practitioner also wishes to reach this kind of serenity and clarity of mind in their form movements, so the qigong and meditative aspects are an integral component of the training and cannot be separated.
Master Zhu hopes that in the future more people around the world as well as in China can know and appreciate Mian Quan in its entirety and benefit from its health benefits, artistic skill and fighting spirit, as well as enjoy it as a special system of both historical worth and cultural heritage; a beautiful and yet truly functional, fighting art.??


Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 March 2010 20:46 )

Rose Oliver M.B.E.



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