Translated and edited by Will Wain-Williams from a newspaper article featuring Master Cheng Xian Ming, inheritor of Six Harmony Staff
Six Harmony Staff (Liu He Gun/六合棍) nowadays is a common part of most Seven Star and Plum Blossom Mantis curriculums. However, what is less known is that this staff set is not actually originally from Mantis, but is a stand-alone system of stick and spear fighting which comes from Nantu Shan village, Fushan county, just outside of Yantai. The set is divided into six sections, and it is developed from battle, so it is said that “on horseback it is a spear, standing it is a staff”.
Six Harmony Staff begins during the reign of Ming Emperor Chong Wen. Nan Tu Shan (南塗山) village was originally known as 南土山 (same pronounciation, but the meaning here is “south of the mud hill”) and was home to three clans; the Zhou (周), Ge (葛) and Ning (宁). During this time the Yu (于) family moved from Henan here. Six Harmony Staff in fact came from a man named Yu Qiu (于秋) from Cangzhou, Hebei province (a huge centre for martial arts in China). At that time a man named Yu Er Zhi (于尔治) went to Cangzhou under order of the emperor to carry our some official work. On his way there, he stopped at an inn to rest, where all of a sudden a man ran in begging for help. He was a fugitive on the run, and a minute later, the authorities came in too. Yu covered for the fugitive and said he was his own servant, and so they left. This man, who only went by the name Qiu (秋) in order to thank him entered into his famil and took the name Yu Qiu. As people in Cangzhou were accustomed to solving issues by fighting, Yu Er Zhi always carried his staff, and Yu Qiu took an even greater interest in practicing than him. After several years, the two of them returned to Nan Tu Shan together, where Yu Er Zhi taught his grandson while Yu Qiu would watch from the side. The young boy would put a cup of tea on the side to cool while he practiced, and every time Yu Qiu would go over and drink it. The boy never lost his patience, and each time just calmly poured another cup of tea. Yu Qiu saw the boy had a good heart and eventually taught him the entire staff system he had developed.
According to the old manuals: “the eyebrow height staff comes from Shaolin, ever since the 13 monks used their staff skills to save the Tang emperor, Shaolin staff has been the greatest under all of heaven. Spear attacks in a straight line while staff covers the whole turf around you. When dancing with the staff, raising, stabbing, cleaving, lifting, sweeping and crossing give rise to infinite changes. The best defense is a good attack, the way to victory is to swing the staff all over the place, this can defeat large groups of people.” “Six Harmony Staff has six sets, in total 110 movements, the movements are divided into Yin and Yang, including Ba Gua theory, hard and soft, advancing and retreating. Within staff techniques are hidden spear movements, the system is flexible, full of variety, relies on body method and footwork and requires a brave practitioner. ”
Six Harmony Staff was kept secret within the village, until during the reign of Qing Emperor Qian Long, a man named Yu Yi (于檍), pen name Yu Ying Long (于应龙) broke the family rules and began to teach publicly. He passed it onto many people around different areas of Yantai. He also believed besides having staff methods, the people of his family should have some hand to hand combat, and so Liang Xue Xiang (of Meihua/Taiji Mantis) came to the village and taught them the form Beng Bu in exchange for the Six Harmony Staff. It is said to this day the village preserves the original form of Beng Bu unchanged from that time.
From then on, Nan Tu Shan village would select the 36 best staff fighters as a local militia to protect the surrounding area from any trouble. It was said “as long as the 36 staff fighters descended the mountain, all of heaven would become at peace!” However their reputation suffered when a champion fighter came with his short stick and defeated every single one of them. When Yu Pei Sheng heard this, he gave up his business in Yantai city and returned to the village to restore their honour. He defeated the short stick fighter easily and their reputation grew again to this day.