Through-the-Back Boxing (Tong Bei Quan)

Tong Bei (Through-Back) Boxing is known by a number of other names. It is also called Tong Bi (Through Arm) and Bai Yuan Tong Bei (White Ape Through Back), Wu Xing (Five Elements) Tong Bei and Wu Xing Tai Chi Tong Bei (Five Elements Yin Yang). There is also the well known “Chi Family” Tong Bei which is one of the premier forms of the style. Originally Tong Bei referred more to a method of training and an approach to power. Many fundamental forms utilize Tong Bei Jin (Through the Back Power). The famous form Tan Tui (Spring Leg) of the Muslim system (Cha Chuan) highly emphasizes Tong Bei Jin.

info_tongbeibkLegends concerning the origins of Tong Bei are varied due to its great age .According to history in the Warring States time (around 500 b.c.e), there was a famous martial artist named Yuan Gong. He was old with white hair and white beard and always wore white clothes. One day he challenged a female master, known as Yueh Nu, and lost the match. Legend says he became a white ape and ran off into the forest. Martial Artists have claimed him as the creator of present day Tong Bei using, as proof, the fact that there is an ape with unusually long arms known as the Tong Bei Yuan (Through Back Ape) or also Chang Bi Bai Yuan (Long Armed White Ape).

Many attribute the creation of the style to Taoist master Bei ShiKou (also called YiSan) whose Taoist name was Dong Ling Zi but who also had a nickname of Bai Yuan (White Ape). He is said to have lived about 2500 years ago. Our first mention of Bai Yuan is therefore in the Warring States period. Since that time Ong Bei has enjoyed a good reputation with in the Chinese martial community.

In 1937 Wu TianHsu wrote a book (shown here) advancing the idea that Tong Bei was a famous style but now known to most as Tong Bei White Ape Long Armed Ape style. In the Ching Dynasty, according to Wu, it was known as Travelling Boxing or Chang Chuan (Long Fist).

Others say it was created in either the period of the Five Dynasties( 907-960) or the Sung (960-1279) some attribute Tong Bei to one General Han Dong, who was recorded in some books as one of the 18 ancient masters. Another version claims it was created by Chen Tuan in the early Sung. Chen Tuan (Taoist name of FuYaoZi) died around 989. A famous scholar he developed the Tai Chi diagram we use today. He practiced in the famous martial center of Hua Shan (Hua Mountain) a region known for great martial skills. Chen was also said to have created 12 sitting exercises and to able to sleep for 100 days without arising.

Huang TsongHsi, a Ming scholar, wrote in Essay of Southern Thunderbolts that TongBei was the best of all styles of Kung Fu. In his biography of Wang ChengNan, Huang Bai Chia called Tong Bei a Long Fist style. We can at least see that Tong Bei was popular throughout the Ming times.

vcd221mDuring mid-Ching times it was taught by Lu Yun Ching to Chi Tai Chang. In the early 19th century TBC came to light through the teaching of Lu Ying Ching, also a Taoist master. Yu had two disciples: Chi Hsin and Shi Hong Shen. From these distinct disciples came two branches of the Tong Bei family: Chi style and Shi style. Other branches even developed from these two. Nowadays they both survive with Chi style (also called Chai Chuan-separating fist) claiming 108 techniques and Shi style specializing in 24 special postures (Lian Chuan form). Chi Hsin taught in HeBei during the late Ching. Though called Chi style it was later renamed Tong Bei. Chi’s son, Chi TaiChang, developed the techniques so much further that there are still two styles of this linneage, one from the father and another from the son. A later student, Hsi ChianChi re-assembled the two branches and left his findings in a series of valuable writing for Tong Bei afficianados.This unusual history, in which Tong Bei was a famous style of Kung Fu for so long and at the same times almost invisible in WuShu history is due to its very conservative, almost sectarian transmission. Instructors of Tong Bei have been very reticent to openly pass on their knowledge. Secret teaching was the rule, not the exception. Chi style, for instance, was a little less secretive than Shi and the result is that, today, the majority of players come from the Chi branch. Some teachers of the more close-mouthed persuasion continued in their secretive ways and became known as Black Fist instructors. Masters who have taught Tong Bei in the past few centuries or so include: Fei Da Huan (Ming Dynasty) Shi HongSheng
Zhang WenChang
Grandmaster Li ZhenDou
Li ShuShen (Iron Arm Li)
Luo ShuHuan

Liang ZunBo taught
Wang PeiShang

Pan WingSye taught
Lin YunBe Juan

LingBe taught
Ma FenTu Ma InTu
Ma FenTu in 1890 started a very famous organization the Society of Chinese Warriors. This group promoted the martial arts and did basic research. Ma assimilated BaJi, PiQua, FanZi, ChuoJia and reincorporated his findings into his Tong Bei starting a whole new era for the system. His work produced a famous and popular amalgamation which he passed onto his sons: Ma InTa, Ma SinTa, Ma LinTa, MaMenTa

In modern times five styles of Tong Bei are recognized: They are:

White Ape Tong Bei
It is said White Ape Tong Bei, developed during the Warring States period was originated by one Bai Yuan Gong. Even today White Ape Tong Bei ‘s progeny respect Bai Yuan Gong as the original founder.
Bai Yuan Gong’s surname was Bai, with the personal name Shi Kou, literary name “Yi San”, and Taoist name Dong Ling Zi. Bai Yuan Gong developed his boxing from the imitation the lively characteristics and stretching spine actions of the long armed mountain apes. These skills later passed to Yu Li Yi, Wang Tao and Han Cheng San. White Ape Tong Bei now has many inheritors. Later in Shandong’s Huang County a man named Shi lived near Beijing’s Great Peace Gate where Increase Longevity Temple was situated on a narrow lane. He was a cashier attached to the Hao family furriers, a Mr. Shi Hong Shen. Shi Hong Shen practiced diligently, and later opened his doors to teach his skills, with many disciples derived from him, among them Liu Zi Ying, Xing Zhong Shan, Zhang Wen Cheng, Han Dong Yi, Ma Xiao He and any number of others with high skills. White Ape Tong Bei’s passed to regions around Beijing’s Niu Street which had become a location of the Hui people, those in that area practiced White Ape Tong Bei Boxing blended with Hui wrestling and striking arts among others, with striking contained in grappling and vice versa.
White Ape Tong Bei Boxing attacks issue heavy actions, which are managed, long, cold and crisp energies mixed, on return “beckoning” uses embracing and grasping methods. The outgoing hand uses and Ape like shape, wet wrapping Jin, and lays stress on real fighting skills.

Qi Family Tong Bei
Qi Family Tong Bei, also called Qi style Tong Bei, originated in the Qing dynasty Dao Guan (1821-1851) period, from a ZheJiang person: (birthplace not definite, supposedly from either Shanxi or Henan, we are unable to ascertain) one Qi Xin. Qi Xin was known as “Tubby Qi” for his weight (his other personal name is not known) called his art “Qi Family Style”. Qi Xin installed himself in Hebei to pass on skills. His transmitted Tong Bei Boxing lays stress on vigorous Jins: Big Split, Big Opening, Big Fan, Big Poking, and particularly Crossing Jin, with a flavor of firm energy manifested as agile and brave. Qi Xin’s son Qi Tai Chang inherited his father’s business. In Qi Xin’s later years he also passed his skill to his god son. Qi Tai Chang’s boxing skill was rather different from his father’s , giving the primary place to soft jin, with his quite different hand arts a little more refined and smooth. Contemporaries distinguished between Old Qi style and Young Qi style. There was a distinct difference in the two generations compared to the father’s boxing transmission. Qi style branch has had many famous Tong Bei followers up to recent times including Zhang Ce, Liu Zhi, Xiu Jian Chi are Qi Style inheritors.

Five Element Tong Bei
Five Element Tong Bei was based on “Qi Family Style”‘s.
Five Element Tong Bei Boxing uses throwing, slapping, threading, splitting, it has five types of palm methods as fundamental hand arts, uses long standing snapping punches, courtyard (or place where water flows before a grave) Jin, five single palm actions act as the framework. Deriving from Tong Bei famous style Xiu Jian Zhi and disciples developed among themselves innovations which spread, making Five Element Tong Bei Boxing’s current revisions tend to perfect, took shape as something integrate regarding principles and technical system. Five Element Tong Bei Boxing from Xiu jian Zhi’s birthplace DaLian transmitted quite extensively, at present Northeast area is Zhong Quan Yao’s region.

Liang Yi Tong Bei
Liang Yi Tong Bei Boxing was passed from a Shandong person, Liu Yi .
Liu Yi at that time threw in with Song Jing’s peasant insurrectionary army, after the revolt failed wandered about destitute reaching Hebei Yi county. Liu Yi Tong Bei artistry passed on to a pair of men: Zhang Lao Sui and Zhang Zhi Li. Each had his merits and passed on a branch, Zhang Lao Sui passed his skill to the Ren Chiu region, Zhang Zhi Li passed his to the Da Xing County region.
Liang Yi Tong Bei later also known as Liang Xi Double Sunlight Ape Boxing. Self Defense from Liang Yi Tong Bei pays particular attention to sharp fighting techniques of Sow and beckon, causing many hand skills to use double arcing movements, similar to a bird’s double wings like right and left spread in flight, this is perhaps the origin of Liang Yi Tong Bei’s name. Other movement characteristics include: stepping following the body, Liang Yi movement includes, drilling turning twisting sowing, evading traversing, Beckoning / Following, linked forms. The Boxing art uses 12 linked methods as a representative form.

Hong Dong Tong Bei
Hong Dong Tong Bei is also known as Tai Chi Tong Bei or Tong Bei Coiling Boxing.
Hong Dong Tong Bei Boxing comes down from the Qing dynasty, From a Henan man, Guo Yong Fu the skills were taught. It is said that, Guo Yong Fu originally acted as a bodyguard, an armed escort Big Jiangnan North. Later because he accidentally killed a certain stupid high official furthermore ordered his arrest and capture, seeking refuge, Guo Yong Fu from Henan fled to Shanxi Su Bao Town within the borders of Hong Dong County, the town had not official but Liu Bing Tian accidentally discovered Guo Yong Fu’s extraordinary ability, profound talent, thereupon for a huge sum of money engaged Guo to leave everything to fate as an official Wushu instructor, in that period Guo gathered followers like precious stones, Zhang Xiu and other followers.
Hong Dong Tong Bei contains 108 manners, its special characteristics are :advancing hand always coils, adapting forms more than enough, entering sideways, evasions angle for surprise. Hong Dong Tong Bei Boxing manual and formulae Tai Chi Long Fist Boxing manual has punishing maneuvers, some believe Hong Dong Tong Bei was simply the lost aspects of Chen Style Tai Chi, this special wording needs further verification.

Five Ape Tong Bei
Five Ape Tong Bei passed on to modern times from the famous boxer Zhang Ce.
Five Ape Tong Bei Boxing is composed of five types of Ape forms, Named Ape, Horse Ape, Mi Ape, Monkey Ape, Long Armed Ape, each form divides into an action, drill, thread, slap, toss and other hand arts, with main emphasis on cold-springy Jin. It’s Ten Word Formula is: Cold Springy Crisp Fast Hard, Soak Linked Soft Stick Follow. Five Ape Tong Bei with particular attention to practicing skills not forms, drills start with body arts like a leaf swaying in the wind, footwork like a fording slippery mud, movements heavy and forceful utilizing strength, using fierce hard jin.
During the years of the Republic of China, Beijing had a lot of reputed masters “Great Enduring Strength”, Enduring Longevity Mountain were good at Five Ape Tong Bei. Other inheritors were Zhang Ce and one “Century Old Man”, who for an 80 year period diligently practiced this boxing.

The name Tong Bei refers to the idea that power must be transferred through the back to be
loose yet effective. Tong Bei is structured as a system of core concepts and applied actions. Five element theory is the core and the Tong Bei moves are the applications. Correspondences might be considered in the following:

Organ Element Method Quality Phenomenon

Through Back style also utilizes movements from animals and bird such as those modeled on the monkey, eagle, crane and cat.

While some styles imitate exterior attributes of the animals Tong Bei tries to capture the essence of White Ape. Still, there is a resemblance because of the extreme flexibility and loose arms often displayed by Tong Bei practitioners. The significant concept of Tong Bei is to use the arms as though they were really one arm connected through the back. This expression of spine energy is absolutely crucial to proper Tong Bei usage.

{This boxing employs the Five Elements complimenting each other to control attacks, along with the contrary use of contradicting element, the changes being endless, with strong self defense for partners and individual health preserving practice. Among its special characteristics are its natural, and lively movements, relevant strength and energy, clapping like thunder, strong vigorous light and quick, stretch long strike short, abundant power issuance. Its boxing lore states: “Hands, shoot like a shooting star; bodywork, move like lightning; footwork flowing and flying”. “Collarbone opens and closes like a fan, arms linked like a constellation; body like a bow, hands like arrows, waist like a snake, body like a drill”…

Single practice and training
pays attention to a group of actions (striking), movement contains, movements with small changes, the outgoing hand contains “crowds (ji), rolls (gung), penetrates (chuan)”, the returning hand contains “suppresses, carries (dai), hooks (gou)”. Its San Shou has a reputation for aggressiveness and a sense of rhythm.

info_tongbeibkAIn actual combat its procedure progresses through the following stages: 1. steady, 2. probing, 3. poison (sting) and 4. ruthless advance. Tong Bei’s Formulae run: the hands move out quickly, empty and substantial transform rapidly; the movements are not clearly seen; stand like a crane; leap like a tiger; evade like a monkey; catch like an eagle; pounce like a cat; enter like a hawk; unhindered movement; suddenly hard suddenly soft; suddenly big suddenly small; suddenly empty suddenly real; inside and outside compatible; body and spirit unified…}

Tong Bei’s 5 “Mother” hands
Back hand striking
Palm Backing
Corkscrew Striking

The 8 Methods


Tong Bei 36 Hand Boxing
12 Linking Fists
12 Rushing Fist Boxing
12 Style Big Spearplay
13 Posture Inner Work
White Ape Saber
White Ape Sword
White Ape Spear
White Ape Double Sabers
White Ape Double Swords
White Ape Short Sword
White Ape Staff
White Ape Flower Spear
Ba Gua Sword
8 Monkey Through Back Boxing
5 Element Through Back Boxing
Deceptive Length Tong Bei Staff
36 Take Apart (Chai) Boxing

See our VCD’s on:
White Ape Tong Bei
Five Element Tong Bei
Chi Family Tong Bei
Hong Dong Tong Bei
Tong Bei Boxing
Tong Bei Techniques in English

One Response to “Through-the-Back Boxing (Tong Bei Quan)”

  1. Rocco Supino says:

    I am interested in Tong bei however, what is available that may have English titles so I have A better then fair chance of understanding the body mechanics and all other important aspects including the basics that build the foundation..I have been taught Jow Ga, Preying Mantis, White Crane and Okinawan Karate by Shihan Toma

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