Overview Of Drunken Fist

© 2011 Shifu Neil Ripski

In the world of the Martial Arts few forms are as unusual and rare as the Drunken Fist or Drunken Boxing Style. Fast twisting movements, rolls, acrobatics and unpredictable attacks are the hallmarks of the Drunkards methods and although the attacks may appear to be harmless they can be deadly to even the most skilled opponents. In the hands of an expert the Drunken Fist is more than an overwhelming fighting system it is an expression of grace and skill.

Although normally seen as a single form in various styles of the North and South, there exist today a few systems of Drunken Boxing that encompass a whole range of hand and weapon techniques as well as internal training. The Northern style of Ba Ying Jiu.Zui quan or Eight Shadow Wine/Drunken Fist is a holistic training method for fighting including all the tenets of the Chinese Fighting Arts, Striking (Da), Kicking (Ti), Throwing (Shuai), Locking and Siezing (Qin Na), Pressure point attacks (Dian Xue/Dim Mak), Weapons training and Internal development of Qi.


Although more unknown than most Chinese martial arts the Drunken style has a long history. Two legends are popular of its origin one of Buddhist and another of Taoist conception.

The Buddhist origin story lies with the famous Song dynasty (960-1279) martial arts Liu Qizan. Who after killing a man in a duel sought refuge in Shaolin temple to avoid prosecution and to repent. Although he became a monk he did not lose his love of wine and despite his vows as a monk indulged himself whenever he could. The other monks caught him in this state and ejected him from the temple, but not until after he had beaten a number of them (some say 30) in individual duels with his sloppy, unorthodox techniques. Upon sobering up he reflected on the movements he used in the duels and began refining his drunken style. The Ma family legend here states that he was allowed to stay at Shaolin after repenting and passed down his drunken style, which was then further refined by generations of monks and laypersons who learned from the temple. The Ma family lived near the temple and as such would have many monastic travellers stay with them and exchange martial techniques with them. A monk named Shi Wingzhi stayed with the family for a long period and it is said that he was the one who taught them the drunken fist techniques that have been passed down through the generations for over 500 years.

The Taoist origin story is about the famous 8 immortals getting drunkn and unruly at a party for the earth mother and had to be ejected. Which of course did not work and they duly beat all the guards with their drunken kung fu. The great immortal Zhog Li Quan (the teacher of the immortal group) then appeared at a later time to a Taoist who was taught the method of their Drunken Boxing.


The methods of Drunken boxing appear light and loose and are usually mistaken for having little or no power. But the Master of the drunkards movements is agile and powerful even in the most awkward looking positions. This does not mean that the practitioner can have sloppy footwork or untrained basics in orthodox methods of martial arts, but rather that they must have a firm understanding of the foundations that drunken is built upon. “Appear weak when strong, unbalanced when balanced” is a drunken axiom used in the Ma family system.

Movements that imitate drinking cups of wine or toasting the immortals in heaven are not for theatrical benefit, but are carefully designed locks and grabs pressing points and attacking vital areas. Indeed nothing in Drunken boxing should be taken at face value. The 8 Immortals give us various archetypes of mentalities and techniques to follow, for instance, Lu Dong Bin the leader of the immortal group is very exact and cunning in his attacks and as such favours strikes to vital areas like the throat or groin while Zhong Li Quan the teacher of the group tends to be a bully when drunk and likes to throw his weight around utilizing Shuai Jiao techniques to throw the opponents onto the ground on their heads.


To successfully practice Drunken Boxing one must be able to fall well and often without injury. This is the purpose of the third empty hand form of our style 'Tumbling Immortal Fist'. Reversal of momentum, going with the flow of an opponents throw, dodging and unorthodox attack methods are all a part of the form. Falling is of major concern as the drunkard must be able to lose balance when it is necessary and fall, usually taking the opponent with him into a throw or lock without injury. Whole body conditioning is necessary to achieve this.

The arms of the practitioner must also become like heavy bags of water (wine) and must be conditioned along with the shins. “Arm like a rope, fist like a stone” or the axiom “Hollow body, wine belly” is used to describe this type of power generated by proper training. Arm banging and iron leg exercises are done on a daily bases to gradually prepare the practitioner for combat.

Internal Arts

The drunken system begins with external movements, postures and conditioning and as the player progresses becomes more and more internal. This is where the Taoist Eight Immortals begin to take a role in the training more and more. Cultivation of internal energy through meditation, qigong and iron palm methods begin to round out the practitioners training. Drunken boxing is a health giving art with a great amount of spinal movement and careful articulation throughout the training to increase the health of the core and pump cerebral spinal fluid to the brain. Flexibility of mind and body are maintained well into later years of life and combat ability should nto be dimished as the body goes through lifes changes but rather intensified in many ways by the wisdom that comes from the qigong and neigong practices within the style.


Shifu Neil's teacher ShiGong (Grandmaster) Ma Qinglong was very adamant about the role of weapons training in his families martial arts. Combat was the primary goal and all the weapons in the style must be understood, dissected for structural, postural methods, gongfa (skill building exercises) and sparring was to be done regularly and often. The Drunken weapons of Ba ying Zui quan are: Long Gwun (Dragon Staff), Zui Gwun (Drunken Staff), Drunken Immortal Sword (Zui Xian Jian), Drunken Soldier Spear, Drunken Dao (Broadsword). All the weapons are based on sets of keywords that describe the various jins or energies used in the weapons movements and the movements of the weapons themselves. Some of these words include: Slash, Cut, Hack, Thrust, Twine, Wrap, Point and Slide.

- Shifu Neil Ripski

Here's What Others Have To Say About Drunken Boxing

"Drunken boxing offers a way to fight that most styles do not ever consider. It stresses the importance of being relaxed and being able to "go with the flow" of battle, instead of trying to go against it. This way, you are in a better position to turn the tide in your favor."
- Jerri, New Mexico USA

"The coolest thing that drunken has taught me, is being 'heavy' and appearing out of control. Drunken has made me a better martial artist because it constantly pushes my limits of balance, courage, coordination, speed, strength, focus and stamina."
- Mac, Aberdeen Scotland

"As soon as I stumbled into a drunken ready stance, my opponent, who stood at the opposite side of the ring from me on the ropes, froze in his tracks. He was mesmerized by my seemingly wobbly footwork and herky-jerky advances and retreats. So much so that all I had to do was to stumble over to him and pick when and where I wanted to hit him."
- Sami, Edmonton Alberta Canada

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- Matthew, Taipei Taiwan

"What I learned from Shifu is much more than drunken fist (or any of the other styles that I studied with him). What I learned from Shifu is real kung fu - wisdom, fierce fighting spirit and true dedication to the art."
- Tomehr, Tel Aviv Israel

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