Tag: Sun Tzu

What are “Mixed Martial Arts”?

Bagua Zhang Throwing technique
Bagua Zhang Throwing technique

What are “Mixed Martial Arts?”

From Mace Martial Arts — The Other MMA!

What we call “Mixed Martial Arts” today is mostly a sport-based amalgamation of Western Boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazialian “jiu-jitsu”, usually practiced in sporting events where fighters compete in a matted “cage” or ring. There are often other systems that influence the athletes in the sport, but these systems are the most common and popular. “Mixed Martial Arts” is the newest fad in martial arts training, and became popular in 1993 with the heavily promoted ‘Ultimate Fighting Championship.’

Actually, all traditional Martial Arts are “Mixed Martial Arts.”

Modern Muay Thai is a sport that comes from a root of older “Muay Boran” (traditional combat styles from Thailand), and Brazilian “Jiu-Jitsu” comes from a simplified combination of Japanese Jujutsu systems and Judo.

Judo itself is a blend of several different Jujutsu systems compiled by Dr Jigoro Kano, simplified to be presented to the public at large in Japan, with a focus on self development at its core.


Taijiquan (Tai Chi) comes from 5 different martial arts systems, combined by a battle hardened Chinese General 500 years ago. Though it’s the most widely practiced martial art in the world, most people only learn the outer shell of it for exercise and meditation, without any understanding of the practical self-defense roots at the core of Taijiquan.


Choy Lay Fut is a well-known Chinese Street-fighting martial art combination of 3 different systems (that were also combinations of other family systems). Wing Chun is widely popular Chinese Martial Art, with roots in various martial arts from the Shaolin Temple, made famous by it’s most legendary proponent, Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is often credited as the “Father of Mixed Martial Arts”, as his philosophy “Jeet Kune Do” (“Way of the Intercepting Fist”) was to learn the basics of a system, then adapt, “use no way as way”, and express one’s self without the limitation of style. Though Bruce Lee was an inspiring visionary, the practice of mixing and adapting in martial arts has been with us since their inception several millennia ago.

The legendary Shaolin Temple and Wudang Temple are both important melting pots of hundreds of different systems in China. The Shaolin (“Young Forest”) temple is often credited as the birthplace of Chinese Martial Arts, but this is not so — the Chan (Zen) Buddhist Shaolin Temple was built in the 7th Century AD, and Chinese martial arts were already deeply systematized over 4,000 years before that (refer back to Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”).


Karate is commonly translated today as “Empty Hand”, however, it originally meant “China-Hand” in Okinawa, because it was comprised of multiple different systems imported from China. Later, in the early 20
th Century, when Karate began to be taught in Japan, the Imperialists in Japan changed the characters’ meaning Kara (Chinese) to Kara (Empty), because of racist politics of the fascist regime at the time.

Tae Kwon Do & Tang Soo Do are both Korean derivatives of Shotokan (“Shoto’s House”) Karate, Shoto meaning the nickname for the Okinawan Instructor Gichin Funakoshi, who brought Okinawan Karate to Japan.


Silat are a collective of hundreds of very different martial arts styles from Malaysia, Burma, Indonesia, and the Phillipines, many of which are heavily influenced by Chinese styles of martial arts.

Dong Haichuan
Dong Haichuan (1797-1813)

The system taught here at Mace Martial Arts is Bagua Zhang (“8 Trigrams Palm”),

the origins of which is credited to Dong Haichuan (1797 – 1882), who was already an accomplished expert of several different Shaolin martial arts styles, before he purportedly traveled to live at a Taoist Monastery for a decade. It is there, where Dong Haichuan learned the the ancient Taoist circle walking practices (at least 4,000 years old) and secretive martial arts that formed the foundation of what he synthesized with his previous martial training and later started teaching in Beijing as “Zhuan Zhang” (“Turning Palms”), which was eventually termed “Bagua Zhang” (“8 Trigrams Palm”). Dong Haichuan is therefore acknowledged as the primary transmitter of the system, not the actual founder, as the original arts arts Bagua Zhang was based on were taught secretly for thousands of years before he was introduced to them.* 

Dong Haichuan selectively accepted many disciples, though purportedly only ones that were already experts of other martial arts. Dong Haichuan then took each students’ individual background training, and enhanced it with the dynamic circular principles of Bagua Zhang, resulting in myriads of different branches of the system. The differences between branches of Bagua Zhang is further widened, as each disciple was encouraged to find their own natural expression of the art, after they had built a solid foundation with the basics of Bagua Zhang.


* Regarding Bagua Zhang’s ancient history before Dong Haichaun, please read this fascinating article by Bruce Frantzis.

Thank you for being a part of this rich tradition here at Mace Martial Arts!

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