Six Harmony Lance

For as long as our Baji system was known to the outside world, it has always been famous for its lance/spear techniques. According to the Cang County Historical Records (CCHR), Wu Zhong was reported to have demonstrated his uncanny skill in spear fighting during a contest in Yanjing (now Beijing) with the Prince of Xun-Qing, who was already an accomplished spear master. During the encounter Wu Zhong powdered the tip of the spear, and using his lightening thrusts and mastery of control, he twice left the powder on the prince's eyebrows without the awareness of the prince. During that time Wu Zhong was honoured with the name "God of Spear Wu Zhong" within Yanjing.

When the system was passed down to Li ShuWen it was enhanced further and made even more famous. According to CCHR, Li often covered the rice paper on the window with honey to attract flies; then he would practice his spear thrusting by killing the flies -- one thrust one fly -- without going through the window paper. This demonstrated the great accuracy and control of his thrusts. Li also invented the single-hand lance techniques. He was able to tie the end of the lance in his belt, and use one hand to hold the 10-foot-plus lance to fence. He was able to throw his opponents to the ground or knock the lance out of their hands. With his almost magical skill in the spear he was also honoured with the name "God of Spear Li".

According the Great Grandmaster Li himself, the spear system he practiced was called "Six Harmony" long spear, or lance (Liu He Da Qiang). In northern China, six harmony lance is a very popular system. However there is a special reason the Baji system was especially famous for its six harmony lance skills. First of all, the spear/lance needs to be longer than 10 feet, and must be made of a very hard wood. Thus the lance must be long and heavy, and using it requires the practitioner to have a certain amount of strength. The kind of spears that we usually see today are not only short (~ 8 feet), it is also light and flexible. Practicing with these kind of spears would be difficult in furthering one's "kungfu". Furthermore, practice with these "flower spears" usually contains a lot of flowery movements, and its practicality is sometimes questionable.

In the Baji system, the training of the lance starts with three fundamental lance skills: thrusting (Chuo or Zha) and the two circular blocks called Feng or Na, and Bi or Lan. A great deal of time must be spent in the strict and hard training of these three basic moves (usually takes a year or two). The requirement of the body movements for these three techniques are equally rigorous. The end of the lance must be held within the centre of the palm and placed tightly against the waist above the rear leg, see the picture above. During the execution of most of the techniques the end of the lance should not be moved away from the body or lifted up. The power from the leg and the waist and the "kua" are transmitted to the tip of the lance through the arms. Thus the lance techniques in the Baji system requires the entire body to unite with the lance and move in an integrated manner, causing the jing of the lance to be extremely solid and heavy. In the blocking techniques the two hands need to twist (or "turning the yin and yang") with the correct timing with the gross circular movement of the lance to generate a very strong "silk-reeling" force. When these skills can be accomplished with a degree of competency, further more complicated techniques (called xingzhao) are then taught, such as linking and wrapping techniques. These xingzhao preserved the practical lance techniques which are tried and tested since the Ming Dynasty. They contains no flowery movements, and there are no forms or routines in the entire training process -- only one- and two-man drills of thrusting and blocking. Grandmaster Liu often said of the lance techniques: "Every technique is practical; every contact is lethal. If one masters these spear techniques one can use them to defeat enemies in the battle field". This outlines the spirit of the lance skill within the Baji system.

The importance of the lance training in the Baji system does not limit to only the destructive power of the lance fencing in the battlefield. Of equal importance is its enhancement to the training of the empty-hand skills and other types of short weapon skills such as sword fencing. Many systems other than Baji also include the training of the spear to enhance the training of the empty-hand techniques. However, due to the requirement of a long and heavy lance which is difficult to carry and harsh to train, less and less people practice these types of spear training. Even among Grandmaster Liu's disciples there are only a few who concentrate on the practice of spear skills. As a result there maybe a danger of such spear skills to be lost forever.

James Guo teaches the Six Harmony Lance in Toronto, and has written a book "Chinese Spear Techniques", to be published in the near future. He aims to promote the traditional Chinese lance fencing skill into a competitive sport. Those who are interested may contact him directly via the links below.