List of Ming period martial arts with surviving manuals

For the most part, Ming period martial arts manuals are written for military men and intended for battlefield use. Many manuals are included as part of a larger military treatise and only offer the most rudimentary instructions on weapon use (exceptions to this rule are usually quarterstaff treatises). In a sense, they are closer to early modern bayonet drill manuals (i.e. simple and straightforward) than Middle Ages or Renaissance era Fechtbücher. Because of the simplicity of these manuals, reconstruction of Ming period martial arts based solely on the manuals is not always possible.

This list is by no means exhaustive and will be continuously updated.


Quan Jing San Shi Er Shi (拳經三十二勢, lit. 'Thirty-two stances of Fist Classic')

Developed by Ming general Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光), Quan Jing San Shi Er Shi is an unarmed combat system derived from thirty-two different martial arts styles. As the first Chinese unarmed combat manual ever written, it heavily influenced later martial arts traditions. Quan Jing was actually intended the style as a physical training curriculum, as he considered unarmed combat to be largely useless on the battlefield, but helpful in developing physical prowess, confidence, and discipline of his troops.

Most versions of Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》) only contain twenty-four out of thirty-two stances of this system. Thankfully, the complete version can be found in San Cai Tu Hui (《三才圖會》) and Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》).

Shaolin unarmed combat techniques of Xuan Ji He Shang (玄機和尚)

An unarmed combat system inherited by Xuan Ji (玄機和尚), a Shaolin monk that lived during late Wangli/early Chongzhen era (1620s-1630s). The first manual of this martial arts, known as Quan Jing (《拳經》), was written by his student Zhang Heng Qiu (張橫秋) in 1640, after which manuscript copies of the original manual became widely circulated among his students during Qing period, many of which made further edits or expansions upon the manual. 

Currently there are three major copies of the manuscript, namely Quan Jing Quan Fa Bei Yao (《拳經、拳法備要》) published by Cao Huan Ran (曹煥斗) in 1784, Zhang Heng Qiu Mi Shou Die Da Zhua Na Fa (《張橫秋秘授跌打抓拿法》) written by Liang Lun (良輪) in 1753, and a manuscript known as "Du copy (度本/海陵度我氏藏本)", which was republished during Republican period under many different names including Quan Di (《拳敵》) and Xuan Ji He Shang Mi Shou Que Dao Quan Jie (《玄機和尚秘授穴道拳訣》).

Tong Bi Quan (通臂拳, lit. 'Through-arm fist' or 'Long arm fist')

One of the earliest extant martial arts manuals of Tong Bei Quan (通背拳) school was written by late Ming period martial artist Zhou Quan (周全) over the course of twenty-two years (the manual was completed in 1665, after the fall of Ming Dynasty). It is closely related to Nei Jia Quan Fa (內家拳法).

Note that while Ting Bi Quan (通臂拳) and Tong Bei Quan (通背拳) are written and pronounced differently, they can be treated as synonymous for the most part.

Nei Jia Quan Fa (內家拳法, lit. 'Internal fist techniques')

An internal martial arts attributed to legendary figure Zhang San Feng (張三豐), although the earliest mention of this style, Epitaph for Wang Zheng Nan (《王征南墓誌銘》) only dates to 1669, while the earliest manual was written in 1676. Nevertheless, the style definitely predates Qing Dynasty, as both Wang Zheng Nan (王征南) and his master Dan Si Nan (單思南) were born during Ming period.

Xing Yi Quan (形意拳, lit. 'Form-intention fist')

One of the earliest extant martial arts manuals of Xing Yi Quan (形意拳) is known as Yi Shan Wu Lun (《倚山武論》) authored by late Ming/early Qing period martial arts master Ji Ji Ke (姬際可), widely considered to be the historical founder of the arts. At the time, the style did not have a name yet, as the name Xing Yi Quan wasn't coined until much later.


Ji Xiao Ba Shi (紀效八勢, lit. 'Eight stances of Effective Discipline')

Ji Xiao Ba Shi is a sabre and rattan shield style developed by Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光). It is probably the only surviving Ming period sabre and shield combat style.

Note that Qi Ji Guang did not name this style, instead its name was coined by early Qing period martial artist Wu Shu (吳殳).

Shi San Dao Fa (十三刀法, lit. 'Thirteen sabre tecnhiques')

A comprehensive one-handed sabre system that recommends a heftier-than-usual sabre as its weapon of choice. The only manual of Shi San Dao Fa was written by Wang Yu You (王餘佑) during early Qing period and published posthumously, but the martial arts itself undoubtedly existed before the fall of Ming. The manual was later republished in 1931 under the name Tai Ji Lian Huan Dao Fa (太極連環刀法, lit. 'Tai Ji rapid sabre techniques').

Interestingly, Shi San Dao Fa is one of the very few Chinese weapon arts that contain a quick-draw/unsheath cut sword technique as well as teaches counters to it.


Xin You Dao Fa (辛酉刀法, lit. 'Sabre techniques of Xin You*')

One of the pages of Japanese Kage-ryū catalogue. From 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
One of the pages of Xin You Dao Fa, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Xin You Dao Fa is a Chang Dao (長刀) style derived from a catalogue of Japanese Kage-ryū (影流 or 陰流) by Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光). Note that Qi Ji Guang did not give a name to the style, instead its name was coined by Mao Yuan Yi (茅元儀) in his military treatise Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》).

Xin You Dao Fa was thought to be lost forever until its recent rediscovery in Korea, preserved intact in Korean martial arts manual Muyejebo (《무예제보》 or 《武藝諸譜》). It is known as Ssangsudo (쌍수도 or 雙手刀, two-handed sabre) by the Koreans.

*Note: Xin You (辛酉) is the fifty-eight term of the Chinese sexagenary cycle. It refers to the year Qi Ji Guang acquired the Kage-ryū catalogue (i.e. A.D. 1561).

Dan Dao Fa Xuan (《單刀法選》, lit. 'Selected single sabre techniques' )

Dan Dao Fa Xuan is a Dan Dao (單刀) style recorded by late Ming period martial artist Cheng Zong You (程宗猷). Cheng Zong You learnt the style from Liu Yun Feng (劉雲峰), who in turn learnt from an anonymous Japanese master. Dan Dao Fa Xuan heavily influenced later Miao Dao (苗刀) swordsmanship.

Dan Dao Fa Shi Ba Shi (單刀法十八勢, lit. 'Eighteen stances of single sabre')

Dan Dao Fa Shi Ba Shi is essentially a greatly improved/expanded version of Dan Dao Fa Xuan (單刀法選) that condenses the original thirty-four stances into eighteen stances, and incorporates additional techniques and concepts from Chinese Jian (劍) into the style. It was created by late Ming/early Qing period martial artist Wu Shu (吳殳), who learnt the original style from Shi Jing Yan (石敬岩), who also studied under the same anonymous Japanese master as Liu Yun Feng (劉雲峰). 


Sword techniques of Yu Yang Lao Ren (漁陽老人, lit. 'Old man from Yu Yang*')

Sword techniques taught to Wu Shu (吳殳) by a mysterious old man known as Yu Yang Lao Ren (漁陽老人). Wu Shu later incorporated his teachings into his double sabre style (by using his right hand sabre as if it is a sword), as well as Dan Dao Fa Shi Ba Shi (單刀法十八勢).

Although Yu Yang Lao Ren warned Wu Shu to not pass down the sword techniques, Wu Shu later composed two prose known as Jian Jue (《劍訣》, lit. 'Sword verses') and Hou Jian Jue (《後劍訣》, lit. 'Later sword verses') that provide hints of the core concepts of the art.

*Note: Yu Yang (漁陽) is the former name of Ji County.


Chao Xian Shi Fa (朝鮮勢法, lit. 'Joseon stance techniques')

A two-handed Jian (劍) style recorded in Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》). According to Mao Yuan Yi (茅元儀), author of Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》), Chao Xian Shi Fa was an ancient Chinese school of swordsmanship that spread to Korea but later lost to the Chinese themselves, so it had to be reintroduced back to China. He later contradicted himself by stating that he acquire the manual oversea.

Korean Yedo (예도 or 銳刀, lit. 'Sharp sabre') is essentially a word-for-word copy of Chao Xian Shi Fa, albeit adapted to be used with a two-handed sabre.


Yu Jia Gun (俞家棍, lit. 'Quarterstaff of House Yu')

One of the pages of Jian Jing as recorded in Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》).
Also known as Yu Gong Gun (俞公棍, lit. 'Quarterstaff of Lord Yu'), this is a quarterstaff style recorded in Jian Jing (《劍經》, lit. 'Sword classic', although the treatise has nothing to do with swordsmanship) written by famous Ming general and legendary martial artist Yu Da You (俞大猷). Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) later revised the treatise with a few illustrated instructions and compiled it together with Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》).

Yu Jia Gun represents one of the Southern Chinese traditions of striking-oriented quarterstaff martial arts.

Shao Lin Gun Fa (少林棍法, lit. 'Shaolin quarterstaff techniques')

Ancient forms of Shaolin quarterstaff techniques can be found in martial arts treatise Shao Lin Gun Fa Chan Zong (《少林棍法闡宗》, lit. 'Clarification of the origin of Shaolin quarterstaff techniques'), written by Cheng Zong You (程宗猷). Recorded forms include Xiao Ye Cha Gun (小夜叉棍, lit. 'Small yaksha quarterstaff'), Da Ye Cha Gun (大夜叉棍, lit. 'Large yaksha quarterstaff'), Yin Shou Gun (陰手棍, lit. 'Negative grip quarterstaff'), as well as Po Gun (破棍, lit. 'Defeating quarterstaff'), techniques to counter other quarterstaff.

It represents one of the Northern Chinese traditions of thrusting-oriented quarterstaff martial arts.

Ma Cha Gun (麻杈棍, lit. 'Fire iron quarterstaff')

Ma Cha Gun is closely related to Shaolin quarterstaff tradition. This treatise was written by someone with the pseudonym Shan Yi Ren (山逸人,  lit. 'Hermit in the mountain'), but the style was not created by him.

Like Shao Lin Gun Fa (少林棍法), it also represents one of the Northern Chinese traditions of thrusting-oriented quarterstaff martial arts.

TRIVIA: Northern and Southern quarterstaff traditions

Quarterstaff: Northern versus Southern tradition. This image is cropped and pieced together from 'Shao Lin Gun Fa Chan Zong (《少林棍法闡宗》)' and 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
One of the easiest ways to differentiate Northern and Southern quarterstaff tradition is through the hand position. Northern quarterstaff is wielded with right hand at the back and left hand at the front (i.e. similar to a spear) while Southern quarterstaff is wielded with right hand at the front and left hand at the back (i.e. similar to a sword).


Unnamed iron whip techniques from Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)

These two-handed Tie Bian (鐵鞭) techniques are lifted directly from Dan Dao Fa Xuan (單刀法選), but with several one-handed techniques removed (as the weapon is heavier than typical sword). 


Unnamed axe techniques from Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)

These two-handed axe techniques are also lifted directly from Dan Dao Fa Xuan (單刀法選), but with even less techniques.


Yang Jia Qiang (楊家鎗, lit. 'Spear of House Yang')

Also known as Li Hua Qiang (梨花鎗, lit. 'Pear flower spear'), this is one of the most well known spear martial arts in China. A rare surviving relic from Song period, Yang Jia Qiang is often attributed to Yang Miao Zhen (楊妙真), a female general of the Southern Song Dynasty.

A manual of Yang Jia Qiang is compiled together with Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》).

According to Wu Shu (吳殳), Yang Jia Qiang should be used with a wooden Chang Qiang (長鎗) of one zhang two chi to one zhang eight chi in length.

Yang Jia Qiang Zhan Cuo Fa (楊家鎗搌挫法, lit. 'Spear of House Yang, bind and push techniques')

An obscure style recorded in Jing Guo Xiong Lue (《經國雄略》), allegedly one of the "secret" variants of Yang Jia Qiang (楊家鎗) but more likely to be derived from Jian Jing (《劍經》). It is very different from all other spear styles, as the spear is wielded with right hand at the front and left hand at the back.

Yang Jia Qiang Zhan Cuo Fa is used with a seven chi five cun to eight chi spear for training and demonstrations, and a nine chi to one zhang spear for actual combat.

Cha Kou Qiang (汊口鎗, lit. 'River fork spear')

Spear fighting techniques developed by Cheng Zong You (程宗猷), recorded in Chang Qiang Fa Xuan (《長槍法選》, lit. 'Selected long spear techniques'). This style is heavily influenced by Yang Jia Qiang (楊家鎗), taught to Cheng Zong You by Li Ke Fu (李克復), as well as by Shaolin spear and staff arts.

It uses a heavy one zhang seven chi to one zhang eight chi pike for training, and a slightly shorter one zhang six chi pike for actual combat.

Note that this name was coined by Wu Shu (吳殳) after the birthplace of Cheng Zong You.

Meng Lu Tang Qiang Fa (夢綠堂鎗法, lit. 'Spear techniques of Dreaming Green Hall')

Created by Shaolin monk Hong Zhuan (洪轉), Meng Lu Tang Qiang Fa is the earliest surviving Shaolin spear martial arts. Hong Zhuan was also the master of Cheng Zong You (程宗猷).

Wu Shu (吳殳) included a copy of this manual into Shou Bi Lu (《手臂錄》).

Shi Jia Qiang Fa (石家鎗法, lit. 'Spear techniques of House Shi')

Spear fighting system created by Shi Jing Yan (石敬巖), which was possibly a refinement of Ma Jia Qiang (馬家鎗) he learnt while working under Han Jing Yu (韓晶宇), after being taught by former Shaolin monk-turned-military commander Liu De Chang (劉德長). His student Wu Shu (吳殳) speculated that Liu De Chang was actually a master of E Mei Qiang Fa (峨嵋鎗法).

Ma Jia Qiang, Shi Jia Qiang Fa and E Mei Qiang Fa are all used with a nine chi seven cun short spear.

E Mei Qiang Fa (峨嵋鎗法, lit. 'Spear techniques from Emei')

Spear techniques inherited by an Emei monk Pu En (普恩), who later taught it to Cheng Zhen Ru (程真如) and another monk Yue Kong (月空). Wu Shu (吳殳) also learnt from this school.

Wu Shu incorporated two versions of E Mei Qiang Fa manuals in his treatise Shou Bi Lu (《手臂錄》), one written by himself, another authored by Cheng Zhen Ru and gifted to him by his friend.


Tang Pa techniques from Jian Jing (《劍經》)

One of the pages of Tang Pa training manual taken from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Although Jian Jing (《劍經》) is primarily a quarterstaff treatise, it contains a section that specifically deals with applying quarterstaff principles to Tang Pa (钂鈀). Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) revised this section into an illustrated and easily understandable format and included it in the second edition Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》).

Tian Peng Cha (天蓬釵, lit. 'Tian Peng's fork')

Tang Pa (钂鈀) techniques recorded in Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》). Unlike its counterpart above, Tian Peng Cha is an adaption of Shao Lin Gun Fa (少林棍法), a Northern quarterstaff tradition.

Unnamed Chinese Ji techniques from Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》).

Fang Tian Hua Ji (方天畫戟) techniques derived from Shao Lin Gun Fa (少林棍法). It is the only known surviving Ming period Fang Tian Hua Ji manual.

Unnamed glaive techniques from Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)

Yan Yue Dao (偃月刀) techniques recorded in Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》). Unlike other martial arts in the military treatise, this style does not seem to be derived from other martial arts.

Mi Chuan Yi Shi Er Shi Hun Yuan Dao Fa (秘傳一十二下混元刀法, lit. 'Secret teaching of twelve Hun Yuan glaive techniques')

A very obscure Yan Yue Dao (偃月刀) style recorded in post-Ming military treatise Jing Guo Xiong Lue (《經國雄略》).

Unnamed Lang Xian techniques from Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)

Lang Xian (狼筅) techniques created by Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) for his troops. It is also derived from Jian Jing (《劍經》).

Unnamed Lang Xian techniques from Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)

An expanded version of the original Lang Xian (狼筅) style recorded by Chen Zi Yi (程子頤). It incorporates additional techniques derived from Shao Lin Gun Fa (少林棍法).


E Mei Chan (峨嵋鏟, lit. 'Emei spade')

One of a kind style that utilise a unique weapon known as E Mei Chan (峨嵋鏟). It is derived from Shao Lin Gun Fa (少林棍法).

Lang Ya Gun (狼牙棍)

One of a kind style that utilises a modified Lang Ya Bang (狼牙棒) that resembles a Japanese Kanabō (金砕棒) with shorter handle. Its techniques are directly lifted from Dan Dao Fa Xuan (單刀法選).


Unnamed martial arts from Wu Bian Qian Ji (《武編前集》)

Wu Bian Qian Ji (《武編前集》), a military treatise redacted by Tang Shun Zhi (唐順之) has a section that contains many instructions on unarmed combat, spear, double sabres, double iron whips, meteor hammer, Pa (扒) and Tang Pa (钂鈀).

Zhen Fa Ma Bu She Fa Gun Fa (《陣法馬步射法棍法》, lit. 'Formations, mounted and foot archery, and quarterstaff techniques')

A short manual included as addendum of Xin Juan Wu Jing Biao Ti Zheng Yi (《新鐫武經標題正義》). Among other things, it contains one of the earliest reference of unarmed martial arts of Shaolin (written as "邵陵" instead of "少林") tradition.

Wu Bei Men (《武備門》, lit. 'Gate of Armament')

Ming Dynasty wrestling
One of the wrestling techniques of Wu Bei Men, from 'Xin Ban Quan Bu Tia Xia Bian Yong Wen Lin Miao Jin Wan Bao Quan Shu (《新版全補天下便用文林妙錦萬寶全書》)'.
Several Ming and Qing period encyclopedias such as Xin Ke Tian Xia Si Min Bian Lan Wan Yong Zheng Zong (《新刻天下四民便覽萬用正宗》), Xin Ban Quan Bu Tian Xia Bian Yong Wen Lin Miao Jin Wan Bao Quan Shu (《新板全補天下便用文林妙錦萬寶全書》), Xin Ke Ye Jia Xin Cai Wan Bao Quan Shu (《新刻鄴架新裁萬寶全書》) and Zeng Bu Wan Bao Quan Shu (《增補萬寶全書》) include a chapter called Wu Bei Men that contains rudimentary instructions on unarmed combat, wrestling, quarterstaff, spear, Tang Pa (钂鈀) and archery. Unlike many other books in this list, these encyclopedias were written for the common folk.

Mi Chuan Duan Da Fa (秘傳短打法, lit. 'Secret teaching of short distance striking techniques')

Unarmed combat techniques recorded in Wu Bei Xin Shu (《武備新書》), a revised version of Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》) written by Xie San Bin (謝三賓).

Quan Shi Ti Shi (拳勢體式, lit. 'Fist stance body style') and Gun Bang Ti Shi (棍棒體式)

Ming period print of the manual, being exhibited in Anhui China Huizhou Culture Museum in August 2023.
A late Ming period unarmed combat manual and quarterstaff manual can be found in Xin Kan Ming Jiao Zhen Chuan Quan Shi Gun Shi Jie Yao (《新刊明教真傳拳勢棍勢捷要》).

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