Zha-Quan is one of the most popular northern styles of Chinese Wushu. However, when speaking to Chinese trainers you may not hear "Zha-Quan" but "Cha-Quan". This is because the Chinese character for this style has two readings. In almost all cases, it reads "cha". Only in the case of surnames is it read "zha". If we look at the history of the style we see that it is attributed to a man named Zha, that is why the style is called "Zha family fist" and the pronunciation "cha-tsuan" according to the masters of this style is erroneous (but very often mistakes become pronunciation standards - think for example of the American "o'kei").
The history of the spread of the style is as follows. In one of Qi Jigong's detachments, who came from the far western province of Xinjiang, there was a Muslim, Zha Mi (Jamil?). On the way he fell seriously ill, and his comrades left him in the care of peasants in Guanxian county, in present-day east China's Shandong province. There, after several months of treatment, he recovered. In gratitude for his care, he taught those people (who were also Muslims) the martial art that he himself had mastered. After Zha Mi's death it was named after him, and the county of Guansyan acquired the nickname "Home of Zha-Quan. Zha Mi's successor was Sha Liang, nicknamed "Mr. Sha Liang - The Flying Leg", from whom the style spread among the Muslims of northern China.
In the history of martial arts there remain the names of many masters of Zha-Quan. For example, Zhang Tszi-wei, who died in 1932 at the age of 84 years old, whose fingers became like iron as a result of his training, could be remembered. It was said that once he was surrounded by dozens of people, but as soon as one of them came close to him, he was immediately pressed on the point and the person fell down before he could even lift his hands. A famous student of Zhang Jiwei was Chang Zhenfang (1898-1979), who had taught almost all of the great zha-tsuan masters of our time. He was born into a poor peasant family, and from childhood he underwent the rigors of life. From the house of Chan to the house Zhang was half a kilometer, and in order not to lose a moment, he did not walk to class, and moved in the stands of special steps. In 1930 he went to the south, to Nanjing, to the famous Nanjing Central Institute of Goshu, then moved to Henan Province. After 1949 he was invited to the capital, worked as a public trainer, published a number of books on zha-tsuan, and contributed to the creation of sports wushu. The most famous of his students is Zhang Wenguang, the current vice president of the All-China Wushu Association and head of the Wushu Department at Beijing Physical Education University.
However, the most famous of the 20th century zha-tsuan masters was certainly Wang Zhiping (1881 -1973). He came from a poor Muslim peasant family; his father and grandfather were masters of Chinese shuaijiao wrestling. However, his father believed that it was impossible to live off wushu in the modern world, and decided not to teach his son martial arts. Little Zyping disagreed with his father's decision and began to train on his own. When a few years later it was discovered, then, seeing the progress of his son in physical development, his father changed his mind. At the age of 16, Wang Zhiping lifted a stone roller for soil leveling, weighing 140 kilograms on a dare. He later went to Jinan (the administrative center of Shandong Province) to study the Quran. While walking in Jinan fountains, he stopped the wheel of a water mill on a dare, after which he was invited to become a student of the famous master of zha-tsuan Yang Hongxue. Later, already a teacher of zha-tsuan in Jinan, Wang Zhiping repeatedly defeated Japanese judo masters and strongmen from Germany and the United States. In his twenties, Wang Zhiping married and left for Shanghai, where he worked as a doctor (nowadays he would be called a chiropractor). After the Central Institute of Goshu in Nanjing was founded, he was invited to teach, and for a time he even served as dean of one of the faculties. After the Communists came to power in 1949 the Goshu Institute was closed, but Wang Zhiping was too well-known figure, and therefore received a worthy position in the new structures of power. In 1960, he traveled with Premier Zhou Enlai to Burma, where he gave a demonstration, and no one believed that he was already 79 years old. Wang Ziping's cause is now being carried on by his daughter, Wang Jujun, a professor at the Shanghai Institute of Physical Education.
Zha-Quan is one of the four classical styles in the "Chan-Quan" category. This word in this case means that these styles prefer to fight at the longest possible distance, which defines the peculiarities of technique. When the sporting wushu was created, a third of the techniques of the synthetic style of chan-tsuan were the techniques of zha-tsuan. The techniques in Zhaquan are quite simple in comparison with other styles, so there are many of them. Attacks are conducted mainly in a straight line connecting the fighter with the opponent. Great attention is paid to practicing the footwork technique. The basic leg technique is the kick "tantui" ("kick like straightening the bow"), applied from below upwards the back side of a stretched foot with a whipping straightening of the leg.
They start studying Zha-tsuan with a complex of exercises called "Tantui". Originally there were 28 of them, and they corresponded to twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet. Subsequently, however, only the first 10 were studied. From the remaining eighteen, two separate complexes were formed called "tuy-tsuan" ("fist of legs"). Although "tantui" complex is intended for training legs, much attention is paid also to their coordination with hands, and requirements to movements are very strict. There are rhyming rules about the ten tantui exercises that are often cited in wushu literature. Their last lines state:
The average person
can't anticipate the techniques,
kick a lot and train a lot.
and the skill will be limitless;
You can recognize in them
a profound superhuman meaning,
and by untangling a difficult knot
To gain amazing mastery.
There are ten basic complexes (lu) in Zha-Quan. In addition to the first two, there are two auxiliary complexes, which allows you to perform them in pairs, playing a whole duel. All movements of each complex have their own names and rhyming rules. Zha-Quan uses a sword-dao, a sword-jian, a spear and a pole.
About the nature of movements in the rules of Zha-Quan it is said: if the movement - there is none that would not move, at rest - there is none that would not rest, the movement and rest are mutually consistent, quick - but without haste, absolutely free, rest - without a gap, even at rest - but intends to move, internal and external co-ordinate together, spirit and form are prepared in parallel. Movement is in the four limbs, the key is in the loins, power is born in the heels, reaches the sources of the fingers, you throw out your hands as if releasing arrows, you return the hands as if you burned, the release of power is like an explosion of bamboo, itself is so strong that it is impossible to break through.
The ten chains of "lu," are:
1. Mother and son.
2. the move of the hands.
3. the flying foot.
4. Peace and prosperity.
5. Closure of the east.
6. Set an ambush.
7. Plum blossom.
9. A dragon waving its tail.
10. A stringing fist.
Each chain contains from thirty to sixty elements, they can be single or paired. The movements in Zha-Quan are even, developing from simple to complex, the stances are straight, the movements are graceful and accurate. Such technical actions as running over, jumping, swooping, lightning-fast movements, transitions to different levels encourage many people to like this style.