An illustration of Li Zhang Lai

The art of Jiulong Baguazhang comes to us by way of the Li family of Sichuan province, China. It is but one part of the Li family’s martial and health exercise system called Daoqiquan. While Jiulong Baguazhang is a relatively recent addition to the Li family system, the original aspects and development of the Daoqiquan arts may be traced back to a Tibetan monk known as Lama Zurdwang. Also called Sitsang Hsuey Che (Scholar of Tibet) by the Li family, Lama Zurdwang was an accomplished student of medicine, painting, philosophy, poetry, and martial arts. It was during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD) that he set out on a journey to discover knowledge. His search took him from his monastery in Tibet through various parts of China, where, he eventually entered a Daoist monastery on Wudang mountain.

It was in this monastery that Lama Zurdwang began to develop what would become known as Daoqiquan. It was his desire to construct a complete system of training which would integrate the mind, body, and spirit. He included a study of Daoist philosophy, herbology, martial skills, and the knowledge of internal boxing principles that he brought with him from Tibet.

Lama Zurdwang called this art the Five Circles, Six Stances, and Four Virtues. Emphasis was placed upon the development of Qi (Ch’i) power through the application of the theory of the Four Virtues: Honesty, Humility, Patience, and Sincerity. He held that if someone attempted to thoroughly apply these ethical principles, then their mind, body, and spirit would become open to the universal energy or Qi and that they would be able to use this for their own ends. The Four Virtues are the heart of the Li family Daoqiquan arts. Ultimately, after studying with the Daoist monks at Emei mountain, Master Sitsang Hsuey Che settled in a town called Dofu, only 250 miles from Chando, the home of his Tibetan monastery. It was in Dofu that Lama Zurdwang became a tutor to the Li family and so passed on the arts of Daoqiquan. The Li family eventually became famous Baobiao or bodyguards in China. Each successive master of the family added his own methods of expertise to the core art of Daoqiquan so that Qigong, Baguazhang, Taijiquan, and Xingyiquan became components as well.

Jiulong Baguazhang was incorporated into the Daoqiquan system by Master Li, Ching-yuen.I t is possible that the Li family system of Baguazhang has the same roots as other systems which developed from the lineage established in Beijing by Dong Hai-chuan. Whatever the case, Jiulong Baguazhang was taught to only a few family members and, as such, its connection to the lineage of Dong, Hai-chuan is uncertain. Shifu Painter has been told by his teacher (Li, Longdao) that the Juilong Baguazhang system was further refined by Li, Zhang-lai during the late 1800’s in Sichuan. Li, Zhang-lai (Li, Longdao’s grandfather) is credited with introducing the standing meditation Qigong methods to the family art.

The Daoqiquan arts made their way to the Western world in the 1940’s when Li, Longdao sought to escape the oppressive atmosphere of communist China and brought his family to the USA. His two sons never showed any interest in learning the system. Living in America, their thoughts were more concerned over running other business ventures. The days of the Li family tradition of being bodyguards was over. Li, Longdao realized that in order for this truly wonderful art not to die out, it would have to be taught outside of the family. It was this attempt to keep the art alive which saw Master Li, Longdao begin to teach two of the young boys in his neighborhood. One of those boys went on to become the current teacher and lineage holder of the Li family system of Daoqiquan – Shifu John Painter.

For many years now, Shifu Painter has worked incessantly to promote both the martial effectiveness and health benefits of Jiulong Baguazhang. He is an internationally recognized author, teacher, and speaker who has been studying and refining the Daoqiquan arts since 1953. Shifu Painter has maintained an illustrious life: he founded the Life Sciences Institute in 1973 which conducted research into Qi, Qigong, and the mind/body connection. He has worked as a professional bodyguard, and has spent a great deal of his time involved with various law enforcement agencies instructing defensive tactics to Military Tactical Trainers, FBI, DEA, and special police force officers. He is an honorary Texas Ranger and was awarded that honor by the former Secretary of State of the State of Texas. Just recently, Shifu Painter was granted a lifetime achievement award from the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame.