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A History and Style Guide Chang Quan or Long Fist Kung Fu


The Chinese martial arts may be the most difficult to trace the origins of. Their long history combined with consistent political upheaval and organizational change makes it very difficult to follow a linear historical path. Regardless, Chang Quan or Long Fist Kung Fu is one of the more popular offshoots of the Chinese martial arts, originating in the northern part of the country back in the 10th century. This highly aesthetic and acrobatic style, in fact, has been a worldwide favorite to study for some time now.

Here is its story.

The History of Chang Quan or Long Fist Kung Fu

Chang Quan or Long Fist Kung Fu was first developed during the 10th century by Zhao Kuangyin, commonly known as Emperor Taizu (927-976) of the Song Dynasty. Where did his names come from? Well, his family name was Zhao, given name was Kuangyin, and posthumous title was Taizu.

Zhao Kuangyin was born into a family of military tradition and began practicing the martial arts at an early age. He managed to develop 32 stances during his lifetime which served as the basis for Chang Quan or Long Fist Kung Fu movements. In fact, his style was often called Taizu Changquan, which means "the Long Fist style of Emperor Taizu."

By the latter half of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), classifications of fist fights and Chuan schools had emerged, which became even more detailed during the Qing Dynasty. In fact, General Qi Jiguang of the Ming Dynasty, and Wushu master Cheng Chongdou were both able to see and specify the difference between long-style Chuan and short range fighting.

Things changed following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek. The new People's Republic of China (communist) took a more active role in things, creating what we now know as modern or contemporary wushu. Wush is a sport, whereas Long Fist or Chang Quan was less so; thus, things were changed in wushu to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Application of techniques was left for sanshou, or a sparring/fighting type sport.

Chang Quan Schools or Substyles

Chang Quan refers to the long style Chinese Chuan. It is also a term that encompasses several schools of Chuan (fist) in China, including:

  • Cha Quan (Cha-family Chuan) •
  • Flower-Style Chuan •
  • China-Style Chuan, •
  • Paochui (Cannon Chuan) •
  • Hong-family Chuan •
  • Red-Style Chuan •
  • Shaolin Chuan •
  • Fanzi Quan (tumbling Chuan)

Characteristics of Long Fist

Long Fist and beauty are often synonymous. The art part of martial arts is not lost on this style. In accordance, Chang Quan boxers tend to fight from a distance, to the extreme of their wingspan. It is also a melodic style, in that there tends to be a beat to what practitioners of Long Fist do.

Athleticism tends to be needed in order to practice Long Fist. Stances are also highly emphasized.

Chang Quan Training

The kung fu types are primarily striking styles, and Chang Quan is no different. Hand and foot strikes are utilized. In fact, the kicks practiced within Chang Quan are often quite acrobatic. That said, joint locking and grappling is taught within the style as well. In recent years, perhaps in response to grappling becoming more emphasized worldwide due to the growing sport of MMA, many kung fu schools have begun to focus more than they did in the past on the grappling aspects of their style.

In general, Chang Quan training consists of:

  • Forms (Bare Hand)
  • Weapons Training
  • Joint Locking Skills and Preordained Sets
  • Self Defense Training
  • Preordained Two Person Fighting Routines
  • Iron Palm Training (Internal Arts)

Therefore, though Chang Quan is certainly a unique art, the general method of training is similar to many other traditional styles.

Famous Long Fist Practitioners

  • Morgan Benoit: This Chinese-American actor is best known for his role as Lupo in Forbidden Kingdom. As a youngster, he became highly proficient in Long Fist Kung Fu.
  • Jet Li: Martial arts movie actor Jet Li is a very famous and adept wushu practitioner that has practiced many styles of martial arts. One of the styles he specializes in is Long Fist.
  • Donnie Yen: Yen is a famous martial arts movie actor who has practiced many martial arts styles. From a young age, however, he practiced Long Fist.


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