Later this week we’re going to add the first Tong Bei book and DVD set in English, authored by expert Jack Yan. Here’s some background information to familiarize you with the style.
For some unknown reason, certain martial styles appear to capture a sudden, wider range of interest. In the case of Tong Bei, the interest seems pretty justified. It is a distinctive style that at times looks like Pigua, and in other circumstances resembles Xing Yi. Tong Bei is dynamic, relaxed, powerful and assembled from a huge range of movement beautifully blended. Its power can be fluid and loose, or solid and snappy.
Tong Bei boasts a lot of branches, but most of them are derived from one of two parent styles: Qi family and Shi family. To name just a few of these branches we have HongDong Tong Bei, White Ape Tong Bei, Five Element Tong Bei, even Praying Mantis Tong Bei and, of course, Shaolin Tong Bei.
Most people, when they first see the style, are stuck by the loose, almost flimsy-looking strikes which seem to impact the practitioner’s body like a sand bag dropped from a skyscraper.
Tong Bei’s Daoist-inspired approach to training leads many people to think of it as an “internal” style.
As far as my opinion goes, if we are going to continue this classification of “internal,” we need to add a “harder, faster” style, like Tong Bei, one that also meets the “internal” requirements. This will expand or stretch people’s definition of the category.
After all, many top Tai Chi practitioners identified as “internal stylists” such as Wang Pei Sheng (Wu style Tai Chi), Luo Jin Hua (Jiang style Bagua Zhang) all practice TBQ as their “back up” style (no pun intended).
For instance, Tong Bei limb training almost makes Tai Chi look stiff. The extended arm positions seem boneless and toneless, delivering power through ropey and whip-fast cutting actions. Even in the Long Fist Kung Fu community Tong Bei is a “Longer” Fist art, causing people to sometimes think of it as only a “haymaker” style. But TBQ counter-balances this inequity with some of the straightest and snappiest punches you have ever seen. Slamming the fight line door is the Tong Bei equivalent of yelling NO.
Why is TBQ coming to the front at this time, and will it last to the 22nd century? Assuredly, its recent introduction to a wider populace shows the best face of this remarkable style. At the very least, I hope that Tong Bei’s distinctive and exceptional warm-up and loosening exercises are shared with more martial artists; they can only help in any style. After all, there are a lot of stiff shoulders out there needing a gentle and relaxed re-framing.
Plum has DVDs and VCDs galore on this famous Kung Fu method, and look for the new book and DVD in English (for the first time) coming soon. Here are a few links worth investigating now…