Liu He Ba Fa

Taoist Chen Xi Yi, disputed creator of LHBF

“Hua Yue Xin Yi Liu He Ba Fa”

The Legends and the Name

A legendary story has it that a Taoist sage known as Chen Tuan (Chen Xi Yi) who developed Liu He Ba Fa. He was a true “immortal” retiring for life to Hua Shan where he stayed without having actually taught the style to anyone. Generations later one Li Dong Feng, having heard about the Taoist Immortal, found Chen’s cave and in it the manuscripts outlining the method of LHBF. After years of studying and practicing the secrets contained in the writings he began to teach his own students.

There is no evidence for this origin story and, given the tendency of pre-dating and provenance claims that are hardly creditable, we assume a much later origin. For information on this we are grateful to Dr. Conner who has assembled many parts of the LHBF picture into a creditable overview.

There is also little evidence of LHBF being called “Water Boxing” other than by one student of the style to emphasize its health benefits. The idea of a sequence being called “watery” or “fluid” is a common Chinese description in Kung Fu. Tai Chi, for example, was said to be called HeQuan or “River Boxing” at one point in its history for the same reason though we have never actually heard it referred to as such.

A Possible Explanation

The name itself might have been influenced by coming from and area in China where both Liu He Quan and Ba Fa Quan were practiced. There is some small evidence, observed by Dr. Kenneth Fish, that there might be some connection with DuLiu TongBei, though Dr. Fish himself makes it clear he is not suggesting that.

In a little town name DuLiu about an hour from Tianjin in Hebei Dr. Fish saw demonstrations of ErLang, Tongbei, Bafa and LiuHe all bearing much more resemblance to LHBF than many present-day versions. On investigating he was informed that Wu Yi-Hui had created the system by absorbing much of the work done by earlier instructors from various styles. This explanation seemed logical to Dr. Fish.

If he is indeed the  creator or a higher generation instructor of LHBF,  Wu YiHui, a Mandarin Chinese citizen,  had input from three instructors. Taking this information Wu YiHui developed an initial 66 movement form (Nanjing version) though there is now a 96 move version (performed by Jiang Jian-Ye) and a 104 movement .

By now the style had become complex and varied. Among its components was the Water Boxing hand set of 64 movements, the Dragon/Tiger in Combat, the Jade and River Sword, the wooden ball, the staff and a form of partner training like Push Hands.

The Six Harmonies

Body with Mind

Mind with Intent

Intent with Chi

Chi with Spirit

Spirit with Movement

Movement with Emptiness

The Eight Methods

QI: Chi

GU: Bone

XING: Shape

SUI: Follow

TI: Rise

HUAN: Return

LE: Retain

FU: Conceal


Wu Yi Hui

WU YI HUI: The man who introduced LHBF to the general public.

About Wu YiHui
The key teacher and a significant organizer of LHBF was Wu Yi Hui (1887-1958) a native of Tieling who migrated to Beijing where he taught many people. There has been a claim of eight generations preceeding him but that might be instructional heritage not specifically LHBF. Wu structured and greatly popularized this form. A widely travelled and skilled man, Wu practiced calligraphy, painting and boxing. His martial talents made him well known, gathering accolades even from the creator of Yi Quan, Wang Xiang Zhai.

His family, during 1896, moved to the city of Kai Feng, a famous center for Jewish Chinese and Muslim practitioners. While staying there Wu studied Xin Yi (3 Level 12 Powers), the Lu Hong Eight Forms and the Sleeping Qigong attributed to Chen Xi Yi (Chen Tuan) the legendary original of LHBF. This is interesting because it gives slight provenance to the legend of Chen Xi on he style. After a few years in KaiFeng he found the teacher Chen Cuang Di (along with teachers Yan GuoXing and Chen He Lu).

At the age of 18 Chen jointed the BaoDing Military Academy. In his spare time he studied martial arts with Chen He Lu at the Kuan Yin Temple.

In 1928 Wu began to teach the arts himself at Shanghai’s South Senior High School. Next he taught at ShuWei Public School. In 1932 he was employed as martial arts director to teach at theYMCA of the Ba Xian Bridge District

In 1936 Wu took the position of provost at the famous National Martial Arts Association in Nanjing. During the Japanese invasion he moved to KunMing then GuiLing. At this point he was invited to Viet Nam to represent Chinese Martial Arts in Hanoi.

In 1945, at the end of the Japanese invasion, he returned to teach in Shanghai where he was also director of the Department of Literature and History. In Shanghai he introduced his art to many people from Brazil, England, America and others places.

Here are components from Wu Yi Hu’s integration of the LHBF  style:

三盤十二勢 Sān Pán Shí Èr Shì – 3 Levels 12 Powers

築基 Zhú Jī – Building the Foundation

呂紅八 Lǚ Hóng Bā Shì – 8 Essences of  Lǚ Hong’s Boxing

龍虎戰 Lóng Hǔ Zhàn – Dragon and Tiger in Combat

Zhē Lóng Yóu – Coiled Dragon Swimming

盤龍 Zhē Lóng Quán – Coiling Dragon Fist

心意棍 Xīn Yì Gùn – Xin Yi Staff

露花刀 Lù Huā Dāo – Dew Mist Broadsword

玉川劍 Yù Chuān Jiàn – Jade River Straight Sword

韋佗功 Wéi Tuó Gōng – Standing meditation

太陽 Tài Yáng Gōng – Solar Meditation

一杰混元 Yī Jié Hún Yuán Gōng Primordial Chaos Exercise

先天座 Xiān Tiān Zuò – Pre-Heaven Meditation

三盤推手 Sān Pán Tuī Shǒu – 3 Levels Push Hands

Lineage Continued

Chen Yi Ren

Chen Yi Ren 陳亦人 (Chan Yik Yan: 1909-1982) Chen studied under Wu Yi Hui certainly the most public teacher of LHBF up to his time. Wu introduced the art to hundreds of people with about 20 top students. Among these only Chen was known to have complete the entire system which Wu called Hua Yue Xin Yi Liu He Ba Fa. Having learned the art Chen taught in both Hong Kong and Singapore. Those six disciples  initiated into the lineage are listed below.

Chen Yi Ren’s Students

Lung Wah (Long Hua)

2. Mok Kei Fai (Mo Qi Hui)

3. Choi Wai Lun (Cai Hui Lin)

4. Jau Mui Tin (Zhou Mei Tian)

5. He 
Man Xiang (Ho Moon Cheung)

6. Pan Yi (Poon Yi)

The Generations BEFORE Wu YiHui, according to some…

Li Dong Feng (s0-called discoverer of the mss. By Chen Xi)
Song Yuan Tong (introduced Yu Chuan Jian to LHBF)

Wang De Wei (who called it “water boxing)


Pan Zhi Huo

Yang Jing Qun (developed San Pan Er Shi)


Li Jing Ran, Da Yuan and Li Chan all teachers of …

Chen Guang Di (One of Wu YiHui’s teachers)




Liu He Ba Fa materials of interest
LiuHeBaFa with Helen Liang LiuHeBaFa with Jiang Jian Ye LiuHeBaFa with Liu Xiao Ling LiuHeBaFa with Jiang Jian Ye
LiuHeBaFa with Wu Ying Hua LiuHeBaFa with Wu Yi Hui LiuHeBaFa with Chen Yi Ren LiuHeBaFa with Wu Ying Hua
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