Zui quan

07 July 2015
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Zui Quan (Chinese: 醉拳; pinyin: Zuì Quán, drunken fist) is a general name for all the styles of Chinese martial arts that imitate a drunkard. It is an ancient

 style and its origins are mainly traced back to the famous Buddhist and Daoist sects. The Buddhist style is related to the Shaolin temple while the Daoist style is based on the Daoist tale of the drunken Eight Immortals. Zui quan has the most unusual body movements among all styles of Chinese martial arts. Hitting, grappling, locking, dodging, feinting, ground and aerial fighting and all other unsophisticated methods of combat are incorporated.


Zui quan features

The technical features of zui quan are based on imitating a drunkard.[1] The main body method is called sloshing, which refers to "Hollow Body, Wine Belly" concept, as though the body is hollow and the lower abdomen (丹田; dantian) is filled with wine (instead of Qi), which travels through the body adding power to the movements.[2] The postures are driven by weight and momentum of the whole body, staggering around, creating sudden power from awkward positions, and fluidity in the movements and transitions from one pose to another. Drunken body style seems peculiar and off-balance, but it is actually in balance.

Drunken style is among the most difficult styles of wushu due to the need for advanced basic requirements. Its intangible, heavy sloshing power is gained through training the body to be soft and agile through basic training and the drunken forms. While in fiction practitioners of zui quan are portrayed as being actually drunk, zui quan techniques are highly acrobatic and require a great degree of balance and coordination, such that attempting to perform these moves while drunk is dangerous, if not impossible.[3]

Drinking, swaying, and falling with great momentum are used to fight. This power must be from softness and heaviness. Even the most unusual parts of the body are actively used to attack and defend. The main hand gesture imitates holding a small cup of wine. This semi-closed hand uses back of the hand, fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, and other parts to attack or defend, grab or throw, lock or release, etc. Fists are rarely used. This style tricks opponents into unpredictable situations of attack and defense. Aerial and ground dodges and falls can be used to avoid attacks but also to pin attackers to the ground while vital points are targeted.[3]

Zui quan styles

A great variety of kung fu schools have drunken styles,[4] but the two major schools are the Buddhist and Daoist styles:[3]

Buddhist style

Creation of the Buddhist style of zui quan is attributed to Shaolin temple. At the beginning of the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), 13 monks from the Shaolin temple intervened in a great war to help Li Shimin against rebel forces. The role of the monks was prominent so Li Shimin, as the next emperor, appreciated the monks' help and bestowed on them officialdom, land, and wealth. In ceremony of the victory, he sent the temple a gift of meat and wine.[5](vol2,p475) Because of the emperor's permission, the monks could abandon the Buddhist rule of not consuming meat and wine. This happened around 621 AD and since then, some Shaolin monks have consumed wine.

Drunken style was first introduced in the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD).[5](vol2,p476) It is said that a famous martial artist named Liu Qizan accidentally killed a person and sought refuge in Shaolin to avoid trial and to repent. Despite his monastic vows, he still continued drinking wine. This was not tolerable by the monks and they wanted to expel him from the temple. While completely drunk after consuming a huge amount of wine, he defied and beat the monks, some say 30 monks. The abbot, after seeing this, praised his skill. This drunken style of combat was adopted from him by the monks and refined over the generations.[3][5](vol2,p476)

The most important Buddhist icons in Shaolin kung fu are Arhats, known in Chinese as Luohans. The same holds for the drunken style as a part of Shaolin kung fu, in which, the main character is the drunken luohan. Drunken luohan methods in Shaolin kung fu do not appear only in zui quan, but in some other styles as well. For example, in Shaolin luohan quan a drunken luohan steps forward, in Shaolin 18 luohan quan one of the 18 characters is a drunken luohan, and in Shaolin mad-devil staff[6] a drunken luohan sways to the sides with disorderly steps.

As with other Shaolin styles, Shaolin zui quan is not a complete stand-alone system itself, but consists of a few barehanded and weapon forms which together with other forms and styles comprise the whole system of Shaolin quan. Every lineage of Shaolin monks may have one or two barehanded[7][8][9] and one or a few weapon forms of zui quan. The main weapon is the drunken staff,[10][11] but other weapons such as the drunken sword[12] are also practiced. Though the technical contents are almost the same, the drunken forms of different lineages are different and their historical sources are mostly unclear.

Daoist style

The Daoist style of zui quan imitates the characters of the "Drunken Eight Immortals" (zui ba xian). This style is a complete system itself comprising 8 forms, each representing one of the eight immortal characters:

  1. Lü Dongbin (吕洞宾), the leader of the 8 immortals, with a sword on his back that dispels evil spirits, swaying back and forth to trick the enemy; the drunkard with internal strength.[13]
  2. Li Tieguai (李铁拐), Li, the cripple, walks with an iron cane, feigns the weakness of having just one leg, to win the fight with one powerful leg.[14]
  3. Han Zhongli (汉钟离), the strongest immortal, carries a large cauldron of wine, tackles the enemies with strength.[15]
  4. Lan Caihe (蓝采和), sexually ambiguous, carries a bamboo basket, attacking the enemies with swaying waist, mostly feminine postures.[16]
  5. Zhang Guolao (张果老), old man Zhang, donkey rider, with his entertaining postures on the donkey, and his donkey's lethal swift double kicks.[17]
  6. Cao Guojiu (曹国舅), the youngest immortal, a clever, controlled fighter, locks and breaks the joints (擒拿; qin na), attacks the deadly soft parts of the enemy body (点穴; dian xue).[18]
  7. Han Xiangzi (韩湘子), flute-playing immortal, denying and countering the enemy attacks with powerful wrists.[19]
  8. He Xiangu (何仙姑), Miss He, flirting with the enemy to cover her short-range attacks, evading the enemy attacks with the twisting body.[20]

These elements combine to form a complete fighting art. This style has also several weapon forms. The main weapon is the drunken sword,[21] but other weapons such as the staff are also used.

Variations of the Drunken Eight Immortals are found in different Daoist kung fu lineages, some with different training methods and interpretations than listed above. While the Eight Immortals have been linked to the initial development of qigong exercises such as the Eight Piece Brocade.,[22] there are training groups that specifically train the Drunken Eight Immortals for kung fu combat methods, Qigong, neigong and Daoist Yoga.[23]

Other styles

Many Chinese martial arts have drunken style methods.

  • Some lineages of Choi Lei Fat contain drunken forms.[24][25]
  • Houquan or monkey style contains a drunken monkey form.
  • Some family styles incorporate drunken techniques. In modern times the Ma family style known as Eight Shadows style (BaYingQuan) has a large drunken curriculum with a long involved hand form, weapon forms including staff, spear and sword, as well as a wooden man set.[26] This lineage also includes drunken eight immortals training.[27][28]
  • Most lineages of Hung Gar and Hung Fat contain drunken forms.
  • Modern performance wushu contains several exhibition drunken forms.[3]

In popular culture


  • In the manga series Dragon Ball, Kame-Sen'nin uses the Sui-ken (translated as "Phony Drunk Attack" by Viz Media) in his battle against Goku in the Tenka'ichi Budōkai.[29]
  • In the manga series Naruto, the character Rock Lee is a natural-born user of the Drunken style. Rock Lee mistakes a bottle of sake for his medicine, and Might Guy tells the Hokage (village leader) that he witnessed Rock Lee using zui quan at a level he had never seen before.[30] Similar to its anime counterpart, the English language manga also removed the alcoholic reference, but replaced the sake with the term "Potion" and renaming the style to "Potion Punch". The technique retains its original name in the uncut English dub.
  • The folktale Swordplay Under the Moon, created by noted Yangzhou storyteller Wang Shaotang (1889-1968), tells of how the Water Margin bandit Wu Song comes to learn swordplay from Zhou Tong, the military arts teacher of Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. After Wu is sent to Kaifeng to deliver a load of gold for government officials, he retires to a local inn and, that evening, begins to practice his drunken style in the rear courtyard. However, his practice is interrupted when the screams of another martial artist breaks his concentration. He stands on a stool and peers over a tall wall to see Zhou performing drunken swordplay for a group of aristocrats. Zhou invites Wu over the wall and eventually takes him as his student.[31]
  • In the manga series History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi Li Raichi is a practitioner of the Drunken style of the Eight Immortals.

Video games

  • The character Bo' Rai Cho from Mortal Kombat uses Drunken style as his primary fighting style (secondary in Mortal Kombat: Deception). The name Bo' Rai Cho comes from the Spanish word "borracho", meaning drunk. Bo' Rai Cho has a love for alcoholic beverages (most notably rice wine), and is credited as being the creator of the Mortal Kombat universe's version of the style.
  • Brad Wong of Dead or Alive is a practitioner of zui quan; as is Shun Di of Virtua Fighter series, Chin Gentsai of the King of Fighters series, Suika Ibuki of the Touhou series, Li Xiangfei (though in a very simplified, heavily toned-down form) of Fatal Fury, .
  • Lei Wulong character of Tekken features zui quan techniques as part of his move set.
  • In the Wu-Tang Clan game Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, the rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard used the drunken style.
  • In the Warcraft Universe Pandaren are known to use a combination of drunken style and the Shaolin fighting style.
  • In the video game Def Jam: Fight For NY, rapper Flava Flav uses drunken style.
  • In the BioWare title Jade Empire, drunken style is one of the fighting styles available later in the game.
  • In the Hudson Soft 1989 title China Warrior, the final boss of the final level uses drunken style.
  • In Double Dragon for Neo Geo, Cheng Fu fought using drunken style and is probably the first 2D characters in fighting games to use it.
  • In the arcade game Martial Masters there was a fighter known as the Drunken Master who used zui quan.
  • In the MMORPG 9Dragons, one of the four leagues, the League of Beggars, uses slightly modified techniques of the Drunken style as its secondary weapon.
  • The online fighting game Rumble Fighter has a fighting style named drunken style. Its Korean counterpart, Gem Fighter, has another version called 'Drunken Master' which is more complex and slightly more "drunken".
  • In the Video game Sleeping Dogs Master Zhen, the last boss you fight in the Zodiac Tournament (DLC) uses the drunken style
  • In the Indie title One Finger Death Punch, zhi quan is one of the randomly assigned fighting styles.


  • In the anime Dragon Ball, Jackie Chun (Master Roshi) uses the drunken style technique in the final match of the World Martial Arts Tournament against Goku. When aired on Cartoon Network, it was called the "Mad Cow" style due to censorship of alcoholic references.
  • Zui quan was featured on an episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, in which martial arts expert Jet Li explained this style.
  • In the television special Fight Science, Alex Huynh displayed drunken style in a segment on Chinese martial arts.
  • In the MTV2 television series The Final Fu one of the competitors, Jonathan Phan, used drunken style to fight against one of his opponents.
  • In the anime "Naruto", Rock Lee, an expert in taijutsu, utilizes Drunken style (Loopy Fist in the English dub, due to censorship of underage drinking) when he gets accidentally drunk on sake (Elixir in the English dub), which he mistakes for medicine. Rock Lee fights Kimimaro during the Sasuke retrieval saga, though his alcoholic lapses are relatively brief, and he has no memory of his actions once he has returned to his normal self.
  • In the manga and anime "Yu Yu Hakusho", the character Chu is famous for his drunken style technique. He becomes proportionally stronger with every drink he has. While this is not censored in the English dub, it is still edited out when aired on Cartoon Network due to the censorship of alcoholic references.
  • Wentian (played by Vincent Zhao), the protagonist of the 2002 Chinese TV series Drunken Hero, masters a set of martial arts based on different Drunken styles, with each style named after a Chinese alcoholic drink.
  • In the 1993 tokusatsu series "Gosei Sentai Dairanger", Kazu of the Heavenly Time Star (天時星・知), as the Qilin Ranger, uses drunken style.


  • Zui quan received mainstream media attention outside of China after the premiere of the Jackie Chan film Drunken Master in 1978. Since then, Drunken style has featured in many books, movies, comics, games and television shows. This was followed up by the 1994 film Drunken Master II (The Legend of Drunken Master) and the 2008 film The Forbidden Kingdom.
  • In Last Hero in China, Jet Li's character Wong Fei-Hung broke his toes when attempting to perform a No Shadow Kick on an enemy. As a last resort, he started drinking from nearby wine-jugs, and thus began to use Zui quan, referring to it as "The Drunken Disciples of God".
  • The character of So Chan, played by Donnie Yen in the movie Hero Among Heroes, uses zui quan to defeat the main villain.
  • Neo, in The Matrix, is taught Drunken style among the martial arts uploaded to him via direct implantation into his brain.
  • In Yuen Woo Ping's film, True Legend, the main protagonist, Su Can, or "Beggar So" develops zui quan after a drunken Immortal played by Jay Chou appears to him in a bar.
  • In The World's End, Gary King and his crew use less than graceful variants of zui quan against the Blanks, becoming more "proficient" after each drink- the stunts were coordinated by Brad Allen, who has worked with Jackie Chan in the past.

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