Zui Quan Drunken Fist

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Zui Quan ( Chinese: 醉拳; literally Drunken Fist, also known as Drunken Boxing or Drunkard’s Boxing) is a traditional Chinese martial art. It is a style of wushu that imitates a drunkard in its movements.

The postures are created by momentum and weight of the body, and imitation is generally through staggering and certain type of fluidity in the movements. It is considered to be among the more difficult wushu styles to learn due to the need for powerful joints and fingers. Zui Quan is sometimes called Zuijiuquan (醉酒拳, literally “drunken alcohol fist”).

In Zui Quan or the drunkard boxing, boxers falter, waddle, fall and sway just like drunkards. Zui Quan can be used for both fighting and maintaining health. However, the drunkard boxers go out of their way to stress the combative side of their style. They blend a series of movements, actions and skills of the martial arts and try to confuse their opponents with special skills which often lead them to surprise triumphs.

Shaolin Zui Quan Drunken Fist

Execution of the drunkard boxing demands extreme flexibility of the joints as well as suppleness, dexterity, power and coordination all of which can be developed in the course of practice.

The main feature of the drunkard boxing is to hide combative hits in drunkard-like, unsteady movements and actions so s to confuse the opponent. The secret of this style of boxing is maintaining a clear mind while giving a drunken appearance.

Drunkard boxers are required to be responsive with good eyesight and fist plays. They move in unconnected steps but with a flexible body combining hardness and suppleness. They have to be fast to get the better of their opponents but their main tactic is to feign defense while trying to attack and aiming in one direction but attacking in another. Various degrees of drunkenness are demonstrated by different ranges of movements and expressions in the eye.

Drunken Boxing’ is an enigma in Chinese Martial Arts. There is no stand alone “Style” of Drunken Boxing; this is only in the movies. Only a few systems have a true ‘Drunken Boxing’ set and that set is usually the System’s most guarded secret. Choy Li Fut is one such system.

Drunken Kung Fu

The principle concept behind Drunken Kung Fu, is to move as if one were half drunk. Execution of ‘Drunken Boxing’ demands extreme flexibility of the joints as well as suppleness, dexterity, power and coordination all of which can be developed in the course of practice.

The secret behind Drunken style kung fu is the sudden release of power from awkward positions. The agile footwork enables the exponent to totter, sway and fall without harm, confusing his opponent, rising up on the tips of his toes then dropping to low, crouched positions. The hand-form which is readily identified with the Drunken style is the Cup-Holding hand-form although in the Choy Li Fut Drunken Set this is replaced with a more practical and lethal “Phoenix Eye Fist” (Fong-Ngan Chui).

‘Drunken Boxing’ techniques are based on the legend of the ‘Eight Immortals’ of the Taoist Sect from Chinese Mythology. Each of the techniques in the Drunken Set demonstrates an attribute of one of the Immortals. According to legend, they were invited to an undersea kingdom to a banquet, but all of them became intoxicated and rowdy.

All the kingdom’s guards attacked, and although the group seemed too inebriated to defend themselves, they created an impromptu style and defeated the guards with their new “Drunken” technique. They are respectfully: Liu Dong Bin, Lam Choy Wah, Ho Sen Ku, Cho Quat Kau, Cheung Guo Lo, Han Sing Tu, Han Chung Li and Tit Gwai Li.

Style: ‘Drunken Boxing’ techniques are based on the legend of the ‘The Eight Drunken Immortals’. Each of the techniques in the Drunken Set demonstrates an attribute of one of the Immortals. These “elements” from all eight Immortals’ styles are combined to form a beautiful and effective fighting art.

Drunken Style Combat

Drunken boxing includes almost everything contained in any other kung-fu style and above all that it contains a deceptive philosophy. As the pugilist staggers about, he or she is concentrating on creating momentum and avoiding attacks with the style’s trademark unorthodox adaptive moves; for example, if someone is going to push the pugilist, he or she rolls over his arms and hits him, and sometimes sinks his or her weight upon him, according to the situation.

There are two kinds of Drunken Boxing, traditional and contemporary. Traditional Drunken Boxing is fight oriented. Contemporary Wushu Drunken Boxing is acrobatic and is very different from the Traditional Drunken Boxing. Contemporary Wushu exaggerates its drunken appearance, so much so that anyone actually under the influence of alcohol would have a tough time performing such actions. Traditional Drunken Boxing also involves stumbling and staggering, but not to such an extreme as Contemporary Wushu Drunken Boxing.

Origins: The style is ancient, and the details of its origin is vague. According to legend, it originated with the poet Li Bai in the Tang Dynasty, but there are five other stories of its beginnings.

The first story is that monasteries had tournaments between each other; one year, a master spoke to his pupils. He said that should they win that year, they would celebrate for six months. When the competition came, they won, and, true to his word, the master began the celebrations. However, the other monasteries sought revenge, and when they came to the monastery of the celebrating monks, the monks were so drunk that it seemed that they would be unable to defend their home. The master still managed to defeat the vengeful monks, and thus created ‘The Drunkard’s Fist’.

A second story is that an unnamed hermit (his drinking habits are unmentioned) lived alone in a cave in the Qingcheng Mountains, well placed to learn styles from which to create his own. When he became old, he soon felt that he needed to transmit his art so that it may continue. He began teaching a child, his only disciple. However, realising that he would not be able to teach the whole style to the student before his own death, he taught him a poem in which the precepts of his style were contained.

He then told the student to study the paintings upon the cave walls, so that he may know the style. After the master’s death, when the student attempted to read the paintings, he found that he couldn’t understand the paintings and, disheartened, he decided to leave. Before he did so, he got drunk and returned to the cave. When he gazed at the paintings, he found that they began to move, and he discovered the workings of the style.

The third story is a tale of the Eight Immortals. According to legend, they were invited to a banquet in an undersea kingdom. However, they arrived intoxicated and rambunctious. The kingdom’s guards attacked them, and even though they seem too drunk to retaliate, they offhandedly created a new style, taking advantage of their drunken state. The guards were defeated, and their “Drunken” technique was created (another version tells that they arrived to the banquet and got drunk during the festivities, and were then attacked by the guards).

A fourth story is that policemen in China would carry liquor during the winter to keep themselves warm. This worked, but they noticed that their fighting suffered because of their intoxication. So, gradually over time, they adapted and created a style which could be practiced while drinking without detriment.

A fifth story is that the monks of Shaolin created this very special style. Attracted by the famous invincibility of the Shaolin monks, many visitors came to their monastery to learn from the masters of Shaolin about their fighting style. Since they were not real monks, they were allowed to drink alcohol. Some of them got drunk, were challenged and, of course, defeated by the challengers.

Jackie Chan as Drunken Master

The masters, feeling responsible for their students, thought of a new fighting style. Using this style, it wouldn’t be obvious if the Shaolin monks were drunk or not – obviously drunk students were able to terribly defeat their challengers, since they were not drunk but using the new Zui Quan style.

The last is the story of a young man who offended a Kung Fu master, who issued him a challenge. The young man knew that his kung fu was no match for the master’s, became very upset, and got drunk. Thinking that by drinking he had thrown away any little chance he may have had, he went into the fight recklessly. To everyone’s surprise, the young man, who had been stiff and awkward before, had now become loose, flexible, unpredictable, resistant to pain, and totally fearless. He defeated the master, and later developed a style based on his fluke.


  • The style is portrayed in the 1978 Jackie Chan film Drunken Master, in which he plays Wong Fei Hung, a juvenile delinquent sent by his father to learn Zui Quan from his uncle, a master in the art. This is followed up by the 1994 film Drunken Master II or The Legend of Drunken Master, in which Jackie Chan returns as Fei Hung, now skilled in Zui Quan (after the first film).
  • In The Matrix, during Neo’s initial “training”, Drunken Boxing is shown on the monitor as one of the styles of martial arts he is learning. He uses the technique very briefly at the beginning of his first fight with Morpheous, right before he brushes his nose twice with his thumb.
  • In Last Hero in China, Jet Li‘s character Wong Fei-Hung broke his toes when attampting 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”.