There are many conflicting views as to who the creators of the various systems of Wushu were. In ancient China, creators often forbade their students from revealing their name and the system of Chinese martial arts they practiced for fear of being persecuted by the State. Some of these experts went into hiding as a result of their revolutionary activities against the State, while others used their martial arts pseudonyms to avoid recognition. As a result, very few of the creators of the systems were ever recorded and Wuzuquan (Five Ancestors) is no exception.
Today in Quanzhou, it is accepted historical fact that Wuzuquan was created in the Shaolin Monastery itself.
Baik (also known as “The Father of Five-Shape Boxing”) was from a wealthy family. He devoted his whole life to the study of Wushu and was already proficient in a number of Wushu systems.
Previous to Baik Yu-Feng, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) many outstanding Shaolin exponents had joined and supported Emperor Li Sze Min in crushing a rebellion and uniting China. When peace returned, many of these exponents left the Shaolin Temple and dispersed across China either as farmers, monks, bodyguards, physicians, herbalists or martial arts teachers.
Baik realised that the departure of these exponents had left a void in martial arts skills in the Shaolin Monastery. He set out to bring these skills back to the temple and, at his bidding, many masters did return. Amongst the people who returned to Shaolin were five great exponents, each of whom excelled in a particular field of a system (e.g. Qi, Body Posture, Force Application, Footwork etc.). Baik urged them to present, discuss and contribute their specialties, which were put to further scrutiny, and eventually Wuzuquan was created.
Shaolin Wuzuquan is a Southern Wushu system comprising an infusion of five great
systems, each system having its own speciality (Five Ancestors). This branch of the Chinese martial arts is very popular in Fujian Province and in the countries of South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines) where there are large congregations of Fujian communities.
The central ideas of each of the five ancestors were combined to create Wuzuquan. The five systems are;
Da Mo (Bodhidharma) 達摩
Meditation and breathing techniques are utilised for the development of Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’. This is the body’s in¬trinsic energy, and is literally ‘the stuff of life’). These exercises also lead to the development of hand skills.
Luo Han (The 18 Immortals) 羅漢
Luo Han techniques are based on dynamic body movements developing correct body posture and alignment.
Tai Zu (The Grand Ancestor) 太祖
Tai Zu was the martial art nickname of the First Emperor of the Sung Dynasty (Chao K’ang Yin) – a very famous and skilled Martial Arts practitioner whose techniques employed tremendous power & accuracy. Every action from the system he created was executed proportionately and with the minimum of wasted effort.
Bai He (White Crane) 白鶴
Based on the methods by which the majestic and graceful white crane which defends itself using unpredictable and tricky movements. The finger and hand techniques of Shaolin Five Ancestors owe much to the white crane’s techniques.
Xing Zhe (Monkey) 行者
The Monkey uses the relaxed wrist and hand for blocking and striking. The agility of the Monkey, dodging and evading attacks provides the basis for Shaolin Five Ancestor’s stepping, allowing smooth yet speedy movement in and out of the opponent’s fighting range.
Shaolin Five Ancestors is a Martial Art which relies not merely on physical strength, but on precise and well-defined movements which are only fully effective when executed in a relaxed and efficient manner. The legendary figure in Chinese Martial Arts (Xuannu 玄女) who is referred to simply as ‘The Lady in the Green Dress’ adds refinement to the systems mentioned above and epitomises the virtue of humility and soft flowing techniques.