“Zui Quan” (醉拳), or “Drunken Boxing” in english, is a renown style around the world, even to those not familiar with Chinese Martial Arts, because of its distinctive movements that mimic the clumsy steps and reactions of a drunk person. Mostly popularized by the movies “Drunken Master” 1 and 2 (Both being real good classics), starring Jackie Chan, Zui Quan is definitely one of the most illustrative Wushu style. People that see Zui Quan even if they never practiced any martial arts would know immediately that it is Wushu (when done properly, of course).
Though Zui Quan movements might seem phony and ludicrous, also due to the movies, this style is one of the most demanding traditional Wushu style in terms of agility and explosive power, and has very strict footwork and hand strikes, all combined to form a combat-effective style. Therefore, in case you had a doubt, the style is not performed when actually being drunk.
Drunken Boxing has many different forms with many of them belonging to the Hung Gar (洪拳) system but not only. The origins of Zui Quan differ depending on the school and region. Some drunken styles are based on two of the 108 heroes from the Chinese literature classic “Water Margin” (“Shui Hu Zhuan – 水浒传” in mandarin Chinese) : Wu Song 武松 and Lu Zhishen 鲁智深. Amongst the most famous forms of the drunken fist system are : “Taibai Zuijiu – 太白醉酒”, “Wusong Zuidie – 武松醉跌”, “luzhishen Zui Da Shanmen – 鲁智深醉打山门”, and the famous “Zui Ba Xian – 醉八仙” (8 drunken immortals), combining techniques of the 8 mythological immortals but also having a specific form for each immortal.
Part of these forms can actually be seen in the first “Drunken Master” movie, as Jackie Chan learnt the real forms from Taiwanese Hung Gar Grandmaster Zhang Kezhi 张克制, an expert in many Hung Gar styles including Drunken Boxing.
But some other systems have their own drunken forms, such as “Zui Taiji Quan – 醉太极拳” (Drunken Taiji), or “Zui Tanglang Quan – 醉螳螂拳” (Drunken Praying Mantis)
Drunk Boxing Styles
During its creation, Zui Quan is said to have borrowed lots of fundamentals from “Di Tang Quan – 地趟拳” and combined these with its own characteristics giving birth to the final style as we know it today. From the beginning, Drunken Boxing most important characteristic was to mimic the way a drunk person behaves (without being drunk), so that the opponent can never guess which technique is going to be used.
Masters actually describe the practice of Zui Quan with this saying :
“The form / movements look drunk but the intention is not, the steps look drunk bot not the heart”
Drunken boxing, like a lot of Wushu styles, is mostly divided in northern and southern systems, that have their own references and characteristics. But again, other styles exists.
Northern Drunken Boxing
The most famous northern drunken boxing style is the Lu Zhishen style. It is based on Lu Zhishen 鲁智深, a fictional character from the Chinese litterature classic “Water Margin” (水浒传 Shui Hu Zhuan).
While most drunken boxing styles have a lot of acrobatics, “falling down” techniques, and others drunken poses, the Lu Zhishen style is a more “down to earth” style with no “flower techniques” as we say in Chinese, meaning no poses or movements only there to “look drunk” but with no practical fight application. Movements of this style are heavier and stronger, with less exaggerated drunk mimics.
Southern Drunken Boxing
The southern drunken boxing is supposed to be mostly based on the 8 drunken immortals (醉八仙 Zui Ba Xian), but also on one of the 10 tigers of Canton : Su Can 苏灿 (mostly known under his nickname : Su Qi Er – 苏乞儿, or “Beggar So” in english). Many famous movies refer to him such as Drunken Master 1 & 2, True Legend, King of Beggars, or The Forbidden Kingdom.
What is interesting is that Jackie Chan is actually learning the 8 drunk immortals style, from is master, supposed to be Su Qi Er in the first “Drunken Master”.
This style is a combination of practical techniques and artistic postures and movements with cultural references to above characters. It requires to really look drunk when performing, with quick and extreme body posture changes. Therefore, the performer needs very strong wushu basics and flexibility of the whole body, especially the waist.
Zuiquan is a very demanding style, with the aim of avoiding every attacks and hit strongly when an opening shows in the opponent’s technique.
A proverb describes Drunken Boxing techniques as follow :
“Use the power of the ground like the earth dragon,
The whole body lies on the ground strong and steady,
On the ground, be like a crouching tiger, then raise like a dragon,
When moving or pausing, don’t let your enemy understand your intentions,
Your body is as strong as iron and as flexible as a rope,
Turn like a tiger and as quick as a leopard fighting a young eagle,
When falling, control your core and landing.”
Zui Quan Main Techniques
“The waist and arms are as iron, the elbows are like thunder and lightning” (臀膊儿，铁样坚；手肘儿，如雷电), is one other way to describe characteristics of the drunken style. In southern drunken boxing, we traditionally train the stances and balance on pillars above the ground with only the tip of the feet on, the heels being lifted.
Drunken Boxing main techniques include :
- Slam punch 摔打
- Pushing and Grabbing 推拿
- Tumble and Fall 跌扑
- Rolling 翻滚
- Leaping 窜蹦
- Jumping 跳跃
Great coordination between the eyes, hands, body, legs and footwork is essential in Zui Quan. In drunken boxing, we say that the upper body moves like a hundred sticks shaking, the waist is like a copper drum, and the feet are like roots sinking into the ground.
All of the body parts have their own techniques, such as :
- Inspect 视
- Stare 瞧
- Despise 藐
- Glance sideways 瞟
The hand can take different shapes, including :
- Fists : Siping Quan 四平拳, Duan Quan端杯拳
- Palm : Liuye Zhang 柳叶掌、Ziran Zhang 自然掌
- Hook : Wu Zhi Gou 五指勾
- Fingers : Jiu Ping Zhi 酒瓶指 (bottle finger, the most famous hand form of drunken boxing)
These shapes leading to different techniques such as :
- Point 点
- Cover 盖
- Chop / Split 劈
- Stick in / Insert 插
- Grab 刁拿
- Pick 采
- Clasp 扣
- Squeeze / Press 挨
- Collide / Dash 撞
- Push 挤
- Lean 靠
- Hook 勾
- Snag 挂
- Sit on 盘
- Cut 剪
- Lift 提
- Step on / Press down 蹬
- Kick (with the toes) 弹
- Twine / Tangle 缠
- Lift 提
- Drop / Fall 落
- Move Forward 进
- Withdraw 撤
- Smash 碎
- Strike 击
- Cut 碾
- Cover 盖
There are of course also many tumbling and falling techniques, including :
- Yao Zi Fan Shen “鹞子翻身”
- Xiao Fan “小翻”
- Ba Lang Zi “拔浪子”
- Dan Ti “单提”
- Zhe Yao Ti “折腰提”
- Li Yu Da Ting “鲤鱼打挺”
- Qiang Bei “抢背”
- Pu Hu “扑虎”
- Cuan Mao “窜毛”
- Pan Tui Die “盘腿跌”
- Jian Tui Die “剪腿跌”
- Zai Bei “栽碑”
- Pu Di Beng “扑地蹦”
- Die Cha “跌叉”
- Ke Zi “磕子”
- Wu Long Jiao Zhu “乌龙绞柱”
See below a southern Zui Quan performance by Master Lu Wenrui 盧文瑞, disciple of Grandmaster Zhang Kezhi 張克治, and Wukong key consultant :