Chuojiao [戳脚] is one of the most ancient of traditional Chinese martial arts that dates back to at least the Song Dynasty (960-1279), given such a long history it is difficult to assess its exact origin accurately. One of the legends of its origin mentions that a Daoist wanderer named Deng Liang [邓良] who created the style commencing with 18 basic kicking/footwork actions (some research suggests leg actions from the ancient Chinese football game of Cuju [蹴鞠]which was popular in the Song Dynasty) and then deriving 108 variations according to combinations developed from the Abacus that became the essential components of the style. At the end of the Song Dynasty the style was nicknamed Fist of the Heroes, Fist of the Knights and Kicking Fists.
In the Song Dynasty, traditional Chinese martial arts were divided into 4 great sects : Chi , Bo , Chuan, Wen and ten great boxing styles : Hong, Liu, Zhi, Ming, Mo, Tan, Zha, Pao. Hua and Long. Chuojiao is often referred to as belonging to that of the Wen Sect and of the Zhi boxing style, therefore often referred to as Wenjiaquan or Jiu Zhizi. The Wen family were well known fighters at the time owning many businesses including the escorting of valuables - security logistics bureaus.
Legend of Zhou Tong and Yue Fei
Deng Liang is said to have passed his skills to Zhou Tong [周侗]. A legendary martial arts master from the Central Plains (中原) in China. Zhou Tong had practiced martial arts and military strategy (such as Sunzi's Art of War) from a young age and in his later years started teaching these methods to various disciples. Of those one of the more famous disciples was esteemed Yue Fei [岳飞], a heroic general and Chinese patriarch of the Song Dynasty. Given Yue Fei's fame and respect by the Chinese population, the style to this day contains a set of practice known as Yue Fei Sanshou. It is said that Zhou Tong being a master of high calibre taught disciples in accordance with purpose, Yue Fei was said to have excelled at military strategy, weaponry (Archery and Spear methods) and practical chinese boxing.
According to the Yuejia Pu (Yue Family Annals), Yue Fei studied some straightforward striking methods, these are considered as the basics of BaFanMen, and to this day have been named Yue Jia Chui (Strikes of the Yue Family). Yue Jia Chui are the basics on which the latter style of Yue Jia Quan in the South (Hubei, Jiangxi provinces) is based upon, it is also the fundamentals of Ba Fan Men (also known as Ba Shan Fan, or Fanziquan). Ba Fan Men was a highly influential style across the Central Plains mixing with many other methods and is the mother of Ying Zhao Fanzi (Eagle’s Claw) and was instrumental in the development by Li Luoneng (who had studied some of its methods) of Hebei Xing Yi Quan (thus the differences from the older Dai Family Xinyi and Xinyi Liuhemethods).
Legendary Heroes of the Water Margin
Another claim to fame is that a number of fighters (such as Wu Song & Lin Zhong) in the world-famous Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh (Shuihuzhuan-Water Margin) are depicted as Chuo jiao practitioners: also making the style also known as Shuihuquan “Fist of the Outlaws of the Water Margin”. For example in Chapter 28 of the Water Margin Novel "Drunken Wu Song beats Jiang Menshen innkeeper" the words "step of Jade ring, leg of mandarin duck" appeared, these movements being central to Chuojiao.
Legend proclaims that Zhou Tong taught Hebei’s Hu Jiuyi for 8 years, after which he acquired the skills of Yanqingfanzi and Stick Methods. As a result the style later became known asYanqingquan (Also popular in Cangzhou, Hebei province and Shandong Province). Zhou Tong also taught Lin Zhong the Fanzi boxing and excelled in Spear methods. Wu Song was said to have mastered Chuojiao, Ditangquan and 8 Drunken Immortals.
Militrary Leaders and Warriors throughout History
In every generation that followed countless experts and masters added to their development until this day. Those ancient arts and masters laid the foundation for the various martial arts known today. In fact Chuojiao is one of the oldest Chinese martial arts still in existence. Having its origin amongst warriors, rebellions and army battallions, the style of Chuojiao continued its development through countless battles. It was trialed, tested and developed generation by generation of not just individuals but complete armies. This enhanced the repertoire of the style by additional various specialised weaponry, as well as boxing methods from various styles and strategies encountered in battle.
Through the efforts of brave and courageous experts, the art of Chuo Jiao continued its application to battles. Shi Dakai, a leader of the huge Heavenly Kingdom rebellion (1851-1864) (TaiPingTianGuo)- a national rebellion that actually took over and held parts of China and involved more people than the American Civil War - was known for his scholastic and martial interests (Wen/Wu). He taught his troops, the famous Shi Battalion, who actually effectively used the skills of Chuo Jiao against Imperial troops in battle. In Volume 20 of the Unofficial History of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, it recounts how Shi's soldiers fought Qing Imperial troops using the basic jade ring skills of Chuo Jiao taught by their leader. They stood in front of the enemy line with their eyes covered by their hands, and then jumped back about 10 steps. When the enemy came close, they used both feet to kick the enemy soldiers in the abdomen or groin. If the enemy soldiers were stronger, they doubled their kicks and turned their jade rings simultaneously to defeat their enemy. These selected soldiers were called the braves of Shi and won many battles against the Qing army. Unfortunately many masters of Chuojiao also saw a bloody end after such military conflicts and thus resulted in few surviving to pass on their skills.
The White Lotus Rebellion (1796-1804), The Wang Lun Uprising (1744), The Bagua Uprising (1813), Nian Rebellion (1853-1868), The Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864), The Boxer ‘Yi He’ Rebellion (1898-1901) are all examples of where Chuojiao (and other Central Plains Martial Arts in general) practitioners have played a part. It is in fact such experiences that contributed to the development of the style.