Asked by Anonymous
Seems pretty self-explanatory to me, but then again I do have a millennium of experience.
Wait a minute, who wants to know? If this is the Bureau of Immortality then I’m definitely not 1000 years old…
Asked by Anonymous
Alas, a pile of dust has no appendages, so it must lay where it lays, neutral to its will, slave to the wind, and victim to vacuums.
Asked by Anonymous
Ooh, this is a good one.
I like a lot of Jet Li’s older stuff. Fist of Legend, Once Upon a Time in China (I love pretty much anything with Wong Fei Hung), and The Tai Chi Master are all great. The Fong Sai Yuk series is my personal favorite, because it’s hilarious.
I also like pretty much every incarnation of the Legend of the Condor Heroes. Even Ashes of Time, even though there’s not much fighting in it.
For more modern wuxia films, my two favorites are Iron Monkey and Kung Fu Hustle. I think the purely dramatic ones come off a bit too heavy-handed (don’t get me started on Hero and House of Flying Daggers) so I prefer the more lighthearted ones that have intense moments of drama.
Asked by Anonymous
Thank you! I previously answered this question here, but here’s the part that’s relevant:
My #1 source online is Sports.CN, the Chinese Sports Channel, which frequently does 2-hour long segments on traditional kung fu styles that are very informative (but usually in Mandarin, though there are a few English ones out there you can find on YouTube).
In general, researching kung fu online is tricky. There’s no one source for everything you want to know, and most articles, especially English ones, are usually unverifiable. Every school also has different teachings depending on the Sifu and the family through which the style is passed down. So you have to be pretty careful. My advice, if you’re researching a particular style, is to read everything you can find and only hold the common grains as truth.
Of course, the best research for kung fu is always done in person. If I’m curious about a specific style I always ask my Sifu first, and then I try to verify it online.
Hope that helps!
Today I’m going to take an in-depth look at Azula’s fighting style, which, after much debate between myself and my Sihing and Sidi, has been identified as a mix of Northern Shaolin and Chaquan/Chachuan (查拳). I’m mainly going to focus on Chaquan/Chachuan, because Northern Shaolin refers to a ton of different styles, and thus is not as easily defined, and Chachuan is what makes Azula’s fighting style unique in comparison with other firebenders. So let’s get started, shall we?
First, what exactly is Chaquan/Chachuan?
Chachuan (The Cha Family Fist) is a substyle of Changquan (長拳), a Northern style which literally translates into “The Long Fist”. Changquan is one of the most popular styles of kung fu in China, due to the “showiness” of its acrobatic forms, and is often performed at tournaments. While it does not technically fall under the category of “Northern Shaolin”, since it did not originate directly from Shaolin, Changquan contains many elements in common with Northern Shaolin styles, due to the constantly evolving nature of kung fu in China throughout history. It is said that the alleged creator of Changquan, Emperor Zhao Kuangyin, was greatly influenced by Shaolin styles, and the resulting prevalence of Changquan in turn greatly influenced the Northern Shaolin styles.
The four families of Changquan are: Cha (The Cha Family/Muslim Fist), Hua (The Hua Family/Flower Fist), Pao (The Cannon Fist), and Hong (The Red Fist). Azula specifically uses the Cha Fist (which itself is split into three different families of Zhang [faster, more agile, more compact], Li [more upright, more comfortable, more graceful], and Yang [more powerful, more continuous, and more direct], but due to the limitations of her fighting animations I cannot discern exactly which family style she uses).
The most notable contribution of Chachuan is the form known as Tantui, or the “Springing Legs” form. Many styles of kung fu, including Northern Shaolin, have incorporated Tantui (or some version of it) into their core curriculum. In fact, it is so ubiquitous, that the Chinese Government adapted the original Cha 10-Road Tantui System as the basis for the contemporary sport of wushu. Though the Tantui System has been adapted into the curriculum for many different styles, and nowadays can be considered a style of its own, the Cha Tantui remains unique due to its irregular, off-beat rhythm and angular strikes, as well as frequent angle changes, which are the defining characteristics of Chachuan.
Other notable characteristics include:
1. Balanced use of both hands and feet
2. Heavy emphasis on a strong offense, as well as numerous counter-attacks, because Chachuan relies on a strong offense to provide defense…
(…which coincides with Azula’s general style of fighting…)
3. Swift, forceful, and economical strikes, usually delivered at angles
4. Wide extension of the limbs, to maximize the space between the body and the fist, keeping attackers at a safe distance
5. Arms outstretched and striking in two different directions, in order to increase the user’s awareness of their surroundings and their effectiveness versus multiple combatants
6. Sweeping blows, from both hands and feet (Azula is a big fan of the low sweeping kick in particular, which she performs at least 3 times during the series)
7. Impressive acrobatic kicks and leaps (The 10-Road Springing Legs Form provides the basis for this.)
8. High degree of maneuverability, in contrast with more grounded forms like Tai Chi and Hung Gar
Chachuan is a style that is noted for its extreme beauty, elegance, and grace, as well as its acrobatic nature, versatility, and combat effectiveness. During the Tang Dynasty, it was the martial art of choice employed by soldiers in the Imperial Army due to its ability to fend off multiple opponents.
Unlike Northern Shaolin, where nearly every strike is delivered with a high degree of power, Chachuan’s forms and attack sequences are performed in continuous waves, with each movement leading into another, coalescing into a single (or multiple, depending on the situation) powerful strike(s) at the end.
Like any seasoned Chachuan user, Azula attacks in waves. She favors quick strikes that produce smaller bursts of flame, which usually culminate in one large burst at the end. The idea behind this is to chip away at your opponent’s weak spots with quick, soft blows, then finish them off with one or more hard blows at the end. The same applies to Azula, who likes to finish her fights with lightning generation (a Northern Shaolin form, but she performs it with the movement style of a Chachuan user).
The odd rhythm of Chachuan lends to its general unpredictability, and, along with a number of “sneaky” moves, makes it one of several styles (such as Drunken or Monkey) that actively relies on deception to evade and quickly dispatch its opponents. Graceful, quick movements transition abruptly into powerful strikes, interspersed with steady stances and sudden stops. It has been said that Chachuan users are like candles blowing in the wind; dancing gracefully one second, but still and steadfast the next. Any time a Chachuan practitioner is standing still, you’d best be prepared to defend, dodge, or block yourself against a series of incoming attacks.
Because it is a physically demanding art form that requires a high level of flexibility, Chachuan users must begin training at a very young age, and most competitive performers of the art are quite youthful. It is also a popular style among young girls and women.
Chachuan is one of the few martial arts in the world which remains relatively unchanged over the course of time. It is a style that embodies contradiction and balance, and has been heralded as vigorous, yet precise, graceful and authoritative, elegant but forceful. In combat, skilled Chachuan practitioners must be extremely efficient, due to the high physical demand the acrobatic style places on its user. The prodigious skill required of a Chachuan practitioner, along with its renowned beauty and effectiveness, make it the style perfectly suited for Azula’s personality.
The first form of Chachuan is called muzi (母子) or “Mother and Son”. The form Azula demonstrates as a child during “Zuko Alone” is very reminiscent of this form. Foreshadowing of her lingering resentment towards Ursa and Zuko, perhaps?
Interesting to note is that from Season 3 onwards, Azula begins wearing heavy armor. This would likely have impeded her ability to perform Chachuan to her full capacity, causing her to tire more quickly than normal.
Though Chachuan and Northern Shaolin have similar moves, the execution style overall is different. You can see the difference between the way Zuko bends and the way Azula bends. Zuko’s strikes tend to demonstrate a noticeable exertion of force and power (heavily external hard blows), whereas Azula’s strikes exert force abruptly and unexpectedly. Another noticeable difference is in the posture; while Zuko’s stances tend to be more upright, like most Northern Shaolin stances, while Azula’s stances more often include angles or leaning due to the elements of Chachuan in her style. (If you’re interested in seeing the differences in these two forms, watch a video of the Tantui form as performed by a Northern Shaolin practitioner and a Chachuan practitioner.)
Chachuan is called The Muslim Fist because it was allegedly founded by Cha Shang Mir, a Muslim General in the Chinese army, and was predominantly taught to and practiced by Muslims in ancient times. Nowadays, it is one of the more popular styles of Changquan taught in China, though it is still extremely popular among the Northern Islamic population.
The style of Chachuan is deeply rooted in Northern Chinese-Islamic philosophy and spirituality. Its key principle is the idea of achieving harmony and balance by embodying contrasting elements. When Azula is “off” in Sozin’s Comet (Zuko subtly noting her loss of sanity and inner balance), her fighting style suffers considerably.
And that’s the long summary of a short glimpse at Chachuan. If you want moves like Azula, go out and learn some Cha Fist!
Well let me tell you, it was quite the pragmatic purchase. It has endless uses in my morning routine.
Such as making the bed:
Getting things off high shelves:
Reaching the remote when it’s too far away:
And assisting me when I ran out of toilet paper:
I don’t know how I survived life without it.