There is a saying that goes, "天下功夫出少林" "All Martial Arts Originate From Shaolin".

Is this true, or is it just clever marketing by the Shaolin Temple or the Chinese martial arts communities?

When we dig a bit further into history, we recognize however that many centuries ago before there were countries or nations, there simply were ethnic groups who coexisted with one another.

One such ethnic group are the Zhuang peoples, who reside in Southern China, near Guangxi / Yunnan, bordering the South East Asian nations of Thailand and Myanmar.

Within this group of people, exists an ancient style of martial arts passed down by its villagers, known as Ang Quan. Ang Quan has resurfaced on Chinese social media in recent years and garnered renewed interest in its history.

We here at Dynasty are always passionate about the martial arts and history, so we have went and researched online about this subject, and will now cover this martial art in this blog post.

What Is Ang Quan (Ang Fist)?

昂拳 Ang Quan (壮拳 Zhuang Quan) or Traditional Fist of the Zhuang Peoples 壮族, performed by 郭靖 Guo Jing.
Watch the video here.

The word “Ang” has the meaning of “cruel” and “foreign” in the Zhuang language.

Ang Quan is also known as one of the 古拳 old traditional styles of boxing, or “Ancestor of Southern Boxing”, tracing back to its usage in the military during the 明朝 Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The Zhuang are the indigenous peoples of 廣西 Guangxi in Southern China. They are a Tai / Dai speaking ethnic group. The Tai or Zhuang Tai languages are a branch of Kra Dai, which include Thai, Siamese, Lao or Laotian, Myanmar’s Shan language, and Zhuang, the language of Guangxi peoples.

This wartime military form of Kung Fu / martial art / boxing has been practiced and passed down by Zhuang villagers and was considered to be a lost art that was recently rediscovered and garnered public interest.

This style of boxing is related to, interconnected with, and perhaps the ancestral art to มวยโบราณ Muay Boran / มวยไทย Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing, due to the intermingling of southern ethnic groups.

The Zhuang, along with the Buyi, Tay-Nung, and Tai / Dai and their migration to South East Asia share common languages, ancestry, culture, and customs.

Historical Proof?

"Thai Martial Arts such as Muay Boran, Muay Thai, Thai Boxing, Muay Chaiya, have roots in China."
Watch the documentary here (no English subtitles).

Are these just lofty claims from Chinese martial artists wanting to reclaim Thai martial arts or Chinese propaganda, or is there more evidence?

Well it turns out that in the popular Hong Kong documentary TV series, Season 3 of "Kung Fu Quest", in the episode "Muay Thai", they've already travelled to Southern China and covered Muay Thai's origins.

In a nutshell, the documentary shows that old styles of traditional Thai boxing, such as Muay Chaiya, or Muay Boran, have the same historical ties to the Ang Quan of the Zhuang peoples in Southern China.

The Zhuang peoples simply migrated down south to South East Asia over time through political and geographical needs.

Ang Quan on Film

In fact, Ang Quan was actually featured in the 2006 martial arts / wushu epic film, Huo Yuan Jia (A.K.A. Fearless), starring Jet Li, showing the 昂拳 Ang Quan of the Zhuang Clan and it’s shared history with 泰拳 Thai Boxing of the Siamese Clan.

霍元甲 Huo Yuan Jia (李連杰 Jet Li) meets 壮族 Zhuang / 泰 Thai / Siamese Fighter (สมรักษ์ คำสิงห์ Somluck Kamsing).
Watch the fight here.

In 李連杰 Jet Li’s 2006 film “Fearless” AKA 霍元甲 Huo Yuan Jia, he briefly crosses paths with a Siamese (Thai) fighter, when his journeys take him to a village in Southern China in the full-length uncut version of the film.

Huo Yuan Jia’s Kung Fu style is Mizongquan 迷蹤拳 or Mizongyi 迷蹤藝 (“Lost Track Fist” or “Lost Track Skill / Art”) or sometimes known as “Labyrinthine Boxing” - a style based on deception and mobility.

The Zhuang / Thai / Siamese fighter’s style is Ang Quan 昂拳 / 壮拳 Zhuang Fist, or Toi Muay ต่อยมวย or what is now popularly known as Muay Boran for the combat version or Muay Thai for the sport version.

The Siamese fighter is played by Somluck Kamsing สมรักษ์ คำสิงห์ who is a real life Thai kickboxer and Olympic gold medal-winning amateur boxer. Jet Li is of course a real life Shaolin Kung Fu disciple and 5-time national Wushu champion himself.

As mentioned previously, Ang Quan is the martial art of the Zhuang ethnic tribe. The Zhuang people are directly related to the Thai / Siamese people as they speak the same family of languages and share many similar customs and religious beliefs.

Thai people or Siamese are a Tai ethnic group dominant in Central and Southern Thailand. Part of the larger Tai ethno-linguistic group native to Southeast Asia as well as Southern China and Northeast India, Thais speak the Central Thai language, which is classified as part of the Kra–Dai family of languages.

A visit to the real life villages in Guangxi 廣西 and Yunnan 雲南 in China 中國 along with a trip to Thailand 泰國 would reveal the close relationship and historical ties of these ethnic groups, separated only by geography and migration.

- Dynasty Team

December 27, 2021 — Dynasty Team

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