by Sifu Bryant Fong, January 2002
In ancient times, the fan was used by scholars as a way of keeping cool. During the Spring and Autumn Period, it was customary for scholars to also study martial arts. Many of them mastered the straight sword. However, this proved to be cumbersome, and appeared ungentlemanlike. The Confucian scholars during the Tang and Song Dynasties adopted the fas as a replacement for the sword. The fan was easily concealed and did not look threatening. We do not know who began using the fan for combat, or who created the techniques. Masters from the Tang to the Qing Dynasties developed martial arts techniques for the fan. Many of these forms no longer exist. The reason for this can be traced to the Qing Dynasty and Emperor Qianlong.Qianlong traveled to the Shaolin Temple to study the fan from the monks. Later it became his choice of weapons, and he fought his battles only with a fan. So famous was his technique that the fan became the signature weapon of the Imperial Court. The emperor collected all known fan techniques and incorporated them into his fighting repetoire.
Since the fan had become the property of the Imperial court, others were afraid to practice it. Eventually only those in the Imperial court possessed the fan techniques. It was during the Qing Dynasty, however, that the founder of Baguazhang, Dong Haichuan, entered the Imperial Palace. Dong was fortunate to have received a manuscript on the techniques of the Imperial fan. To these techniques, Dong added the footwork of body movement of Baguazhang. Until Dong began to teach the fan, these techniques were unknown to the public. The fan originally had no name. When Dong taught it, he dared not say it was the Emperor’s fan form. His student, Liang Zhen Pu, a second generation bagua practitioner, gave it the name Kun Lun Fan. This was in honor of Dong, as he was often called The Hero of the Kun Lun Mountains.
The fan is a unique weapon unlike any other. It can be very small, yet expand to twice its normal size. It is like a two-section staff — since it can revolve, spring, and crush, it can attack the joints. You may also switch hands and use it to lock your opponent. It can be like Baguazhang’s Iron Pencils, to strike the nerves and acupuncture points. The edge of the fan can be used against an opponent to cut like a broadsword, and to cut meridians and blood vessels like a monk’s spade. In total, the fan techniques are divided into 24 basic movements. These fan techniques are extremely effective, and were tested thoroughly in combat by the previous generations.
There are people who have since created fan forms, many of which can be practiced for health. However, in terms of combat techniques, none can compare with the Kun Lun Fan techniques. These techniques learned by Dong were the very best techniques. From Liang Zhen Pu, the knowledge was passed to third generation master Li Zi Ming, and then to Master Zhao Da Yuan. Master Zhao has tried to preserve and faithfully transmit these techniques to his students: Zhao Bao Ting, Yang Shi Ming, An Wan Qao, and in 1998 during his trip to the United States, to Bryant Fong and his students.