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The style Chinese martial art known as Eagle Claw (Ying Zhua Pài ???) is thought to be one of the oldest and most complex of the surviving Northern Shaolin kung fu systems. Along with the long strikes and kicks that typify Northern systems, the Eagle Claw system is distinguished by its gripping techniques and system of joint locks, takedowns, and pressure point strikes, which represent one of the oldest forms of the Chinese grappling known as Chin Na.
While the details of the history alter according to the teller, with names and places shifting as they tend to do in any oral history, in essence the story of Eagle Claw began in the Shaolin Temple and in Chinese military training, became a family tradition passed on from parent to child for generations, and eventually shed its air of secrecy with the advent of public martial arts schools.
The Eagle Claw method is said to have been created by General Yue Fei who lived at a time of warfare between the Southern Song Dynasty and the Jurchen tribes of the Jin Dynasty.
Yue Fei’s learned Archery, Horsemanship and various other Martial Arts from Zhou Tong. Zhou Tong is said to have taught Yue Fei a method of grappling from the “Elephant Style” which he later expanded to create the “108 Chin Na locks” (??????) known as Eagle Fist style (Ying Kuen). He taught this new style to his soldiers and they were victorious in battle. (Some say Zhou Tong was a Shaolin Monk)
Another of his tutors was Cheng Guang who was famous for his Spear Skill.
In Chinese, elephant is pronounced Xiàng (?). Such an ancient style is taught today in the Shaolin Temple that emphasizes a particular type of footwork. However, the same character can also mean “shape, form, or appearance”. The elephant style in question some believe to be a mistranslation of xiang, which actually refers to Xiang Xing Quan (??? – “Imitation Boxing”), a fighting technique which emphasizes the imitation of the offensive and defensive actions of a certain animal or celestial personage.
In the late Ming Dynasty Yue Fei’s material is said to have made a re-appearance at a Shaolin (there were many that were considered branches of the Main Location in Henan Province). Lai Chin/Liquan Seng (???) an expert in the Fanzi(aka Bashanfan) boxing method encountered soldiers practicing the hand techniques they called Ying Quan (Eagle Fist).
After taking the time to learn and master these skills he undertook the daunting task of assimilating them into his pre-existing Fanziquan sets.
Other researchers have come to the conclusion that Liquan is not the name of an individul but a religious order with Shaolin Sect. The location of their temple is believe to be the one in Hebei Province where both Facheng and Daoji were in residence.
In 1644 the Ming Dynasty was overthrown and replaced by the Qing Dynasty. Many royal family members of the Ming house went into hiding, with several becoming monks, scholars and artists. On such monk was Zhu Ruoji (1642 – 1707) aka Shitao, a low-level prince. He was only two years old when the Ming fell. Later on in his life he took the name Dao Ji (???). He had a classmate named Fa Seng (???).