Notes on Feng Zhiqiang

Robin Wu

Taiji Kitten
Source: Facebook

“Why late in life did FZQ change so many open hand strikes turn into closed fist strikes? Like the arm bar sweeps before Lean with Back into hook punches and # 24 3 Linking Cannons after High Pat Horse in the 32 form and Pao tui go from open palms to close fist strikes?”


What you are referring to ‘armbar sweeps before lean with back’ is actually BeiZheKao (lean fold back) itself, intrinsic to the move. While you may see this expressed as open palms in Chen Zhaopi’s frame, it is in fact fists in Chen Zhaokui’s frame, which is the branch as FZQ. There are differences and one such difference is how FZQ changed the pacing and emphasis to express these as strikes rather than a more flexible approach that we would see in CZK frame expressing as lock, drag, hook and also strike. They become limited to strike when one stops at each one’s finish instead of flowing through.

FXQ was very well versed in multiple technique areas of the fist, but he has a special skill and interest in striking. This is at least partly why he was respected widely in Beijing as one of the few real fighters in Taijiquan. So, he had the tendency to pace his forms to illustrate and clarify the striking aspect. Anyone who learned from him was somewhat lucky to have been exposed to this side of the fist since almost no one else was able or willing to clarify it. However, that also comes with some drawbacks in that his pacing may have obscured others aspects that although he knew, he did not emphasize as much. Every teacher has some imbalance in their approach, and the most balanced of all is likely to be the least practically inclined. Having trained with him myself from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s I can say it was extremely useful, however that usefulness is activated by having the different perspective of several other teachers as well.

“It is my opinion that late in life FZQ wanted to go back in time to include more martial techniques from his Xin Yi and Tong Bei forms.”


I kind of agree with this. This was happening at the tail end and after my time with him. I think he was just aging and wanting to pull together his history and respect all his teachers. At some point he may have gotten tired of having to play along with any Chen dominant narrative especially given that he had been so badly insulted by the family. At a certain age and experience many practitioner/teachers may say, “well, this is me- whatever anyone thinks”.

“It just seems strange from the Master who prefers soft over hard and discouraged thinking about hitting another person as Qi disruptive.”


This is the difference between the public presentation and the private. I am aware that for many years his public presentation was focused on health, harmony and qi etc. He was giving interviews telling people not to stomp their feet or fajin because it was bad for health etc, but at the same time when I was learning from him he was teaching me to stomp and smash repeatedly or no chance of learning to fight. He specifically said, this was how CFK taught us. So there’s that.

“That’s not what Chen Fake taught and how he did the 48 form or initially the 24 form he created and performed prior to 46 Cannon form
In the early 2000s.”


Apparently CFK was much more aggressive and brutal than is publicly known. I learned Erlu (pao chui) from him in the late 90’s and it was absolutely all fists, of course with also big relaxing movements, but it was not exactly gentle intent.

“Just saying. I call the 46 form the “kitchen sink” as it combines the first part of Paotui with TongBei, 2 arts with no real congruency of approach and principles. Would have been better to leave the 32 as a paotui intro and the rest as a XinYi, Tong Bei, Shaolin mixed bag in my humble opinion”


I agree here. This kind of amalgamation form did not start until later. That was right around my departure from that scene. Myself I favor the traditional approach, which already has what I considered important, but he had his own ego and history to satisfy.


Dou Jin


FZQ had his own way of doing things for sure. He liked to talk about it, but he had the public talk, the private talk and then the doing, all which in my experience were a bit different.

Anyone can travel the internet and find instances of FZQ and/or his many students quoting him saying how bad it is to stomp the feet and fajin hard in Chen Taijiquan. I've heard him say it as well. We don't see many video examples of him stomping either, but no one really knows what he did years back. He told me quietly when learning erlu to stomp the foot and fajin as hard as many times in repetition as possible. He said that was what Chen FaKe taught HIM. 😃 -but then we have the public talk.

With this in mind, the idea of Shaking (dou) being bad is because as a very martially focused practitioner he was attempting to teach penetrating power. That is how his punches work. If you know Chinese you can hear him discussing (like the machinist he was) how the punch should be like a power drill. He kept his power very focused, delivered through the arm with as little loss of power as possible. When the body shakes, and/or the arm/fist shakes that is a form of loss of power, leaking out in whatever direction it is shaking.

If you WERE operating a drill, the last thing you would want that to be doing while you were drilling something would be shaking or wobbling around. if you were delivering a bullet from a gun, you certainly would not want to gun to be shaking around, nor the bullet to wobble on it's course. Bullets do not wobble, they spin as well. When launching rockets wobble they generally explode and fail seconds later. When the fist is steady the power is efficiently delivered to target. That was his view and it is a good one in general for martial arts.

He was partially just sharing his experience and learning, and also partially specifically responding to what he saw as the overkill dramatic shaking fajin videos by Chen Xiaowang.

I agree with him to a point on that view, but then the other side of this is that there is a use and reason for doujin outside of the penetrating delivery of power and also outside of the dramatic performances as well. Dou Jin is also a way of delivering a shocking power due to it's nature of delivering a wave through a limb, which is different from drilling or penetrating power.

Doujin also becomes extremely useful when the context of techniques is shifted such that they are more multi-purposed. When I punch, such as 'hidden thrust punch' or 'punch the crotch' is practiced with dou jin it can be multi-purposed towards Kao, shocking peng (aka beng), ZA (smashing) or Qin Na. The same efficacy can be attributed to body shaking as there are many applications that use the shapes and JIn of form techniques effectively even when the hands are not at all involved or in normal contact for their conventional or first line applications. For example, one more common such is the rear use of 'punch the ground'; the shape and action of punch the ground can be used to shock the hell out of, then elbow or throw an opponent who has grabbed one from behind by using 'punch the ground' and not actually hitting anyone with either the fist or the elbow.