Chang Family Boxing

Developed over 150 years ago the Chang Family Boxing is loose, fluid and subtle.

changjia1During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1910) there lived a man named Chang Nai Chou (aka. Chang Luo, circa 1724-1783). Born in Ssu Shui County, Henan province, this was the creator of “Chang Family Boxing.” Descended from a famous Ming military figure – Chang Shou Zhong – Chang was a scholar who loved to practice Kung Fu. Besides travelling to learn from masters he absorbed and developed what he learned from various schools of boxing. Among his sources were Monkey Fist, Tai Chi, Luo Han, Plum Blossom Boxing, Zi Boxing and Drunken Boxing. He also based his style on classic Chinese concepts such as Yin Yang, the relation of Chi to blood, the phases of the five elements and other theories.

A popular passtime starting during the period of the Qian Lung Emperor, this combination of philosophizing and martial writing was not always a positive thing. Often real skills were overlooked in preference to academic insights. This was encouraged by the Manchu elite who believed that promoting pride in Chinese heritage could also be used to weaken the resisitance of the populace. But far from being just “flowery” expositions ( during this period Chang won the military title of Jun Jie Shi,) Chang’s writings were poular and influential with real martial practitioners. Some of his work may have inspired similar writings on Mei Hua Boxing and Xin Yi Liu He boxing texts. Interestingly enough both these branches were, around this time, associated somewhat with rebel activities even though Chang’s best student – Chai Ru Gui – became a hero by defending Ssu Shui from attacks of the White Lotus Sect.


A rendition of Chang Nai Chou himself.

Another very important string of evidence shows that the “Tai Chi Classics” of the Wu and Li branches have almost identical information from Chang’s earlier writings. In other words, Chang’s writings were seminal in creating a new level of information and theoretical investigation in the martial arts. Some of the parallels have brought the attention of scholars. For instance Chang’s writings include “Essentials on Sparring”, “Body Skills” and other essays. His quotes include
“You and the opponent are one.”
“Abandonning what is near and seeking what is far.”
and other saying which are very similar to writings from the Tai Chi Classics. We know that Chang visited Chen Jia Gou. We also know that Chen village contributed no writings of its own on Tai Chi. This will be a well spring of research in years to come.

Chang’s style belongs to a positive but somewhat spotty core of martial practitioners who, from as far back as the Ming, have been trying to re-vivify Chinese WuShu. From our perspective some of the teachings which could be lumped together under this process are:

The Wu Tan group from Tai Wan including Liu Yun Chiao and Adam Hsu
The Nan Jing conferences on martial training
The Chin Wu Association
Yi Quan
Zi Ran Men
Chang Family Boxing

Of course there are more but this core group consists of those who see the very curriculum of Chinese martial arts as being itself part of the problem. Solutions are various. In the case of Chang style we note the following attributes:

•There is an overt verbal representation of key principles. You don’t have to guess at them.
•Key movements are practiced separately. This is not the same as “basics” which sometimes have no significant relationship “core actions.”
•Forms are seen as flexible concatenations of “core actions” rather than finished works of art of heirlooms.
• Chi Kung is linked in such a way as to be a component of both forms and “core actions.”
• General fighting strategy was clearly represented in the overall style.

Continuing his study of the martial arts Chang worked with a number of teachers. Some of these are:
Huan Hou spearplay (Yi De Da Chiang) and boxing from Yu Rang.
Stick fighting from Liang Dao.
Luohan Boxing and Nei Gong from Yan Sheng Dao.
He also learned Fan Zi Boxing and Monkey Stick.

changjia3In 1781 Chang published his writings. In his notes Change linked the mind to breath and the breath to form.Similar in theory to Tai Chi (it was said that Chang visited Chen Jia Gou) the Chang stylist appears loose when practicing forms. The core of his explanation is the revival of a Taoist concept known as Central Qi (Zhong Qi Ge). May of his analogies are alchemical and partake of both Taoism and Chinese medical theory. They speak of preserving the Yuan Qi, the primal essence of a human life. In the martial application he discusses the use of energy to spring forward and engage the opponent. He uses many fighting priniples such as covering the other person with his front foot when grappling; waiting for just the right moment to gain the advantage; arriving before the opponent even if he starts. Outwardly quiet, Change stylists keep focused and wait for the first signs of fatigue in their opponents. Using combinations they intermix the substantial and the insubstantial, hard and soft: all in a relaxed manner.

Chang’s basic form structure contains:
San Zan Four Core Actions
Big Arhat Fist
24 Fighting Techniques
24 “Chi” Boxing
Double Maces
Double Straight Swords
Monkey Staff

Chang Family Boxing VCDs

Book on Chang’s writings