October 2006 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I'm studying the Wing Choon system. I read on the internet about Bruce Lee saying that during the secret combat which took place between him and a grandmaster in Northern Shaolin, the Wing Choon system as a typical Southern Shaolin style, gave him very few kicking techniques while the other Northern Shaolin master although armed with devastating kicks, had very little emphasis on hand techniques. This was the main reason Bruce Lee developed Jeet Kune Do, to use all the tools of his body to maximum efficiency. Hence, if I want to be a complete Shaolin fighter who can use his hands and legs to the maximum in combat, which style would you advise me to learn (northern, southern or both)?
— Sherief, Egypt
In my opinion, Bruce Lee was incorrect in his judgment. Unlike most of the non-Chinese martial arts, such as Karate, Taekwondo, KickBoxing, Western Boxing, and Wrestling, which are actually martial sports, all kungfu styles are complete by themselves. When you learn kungfu — any style of kungfu — there is no need to supplement it with techniques from other kungfu styles or from other martial arts. If a kungfu exponent finds a particular kungfu style lacking in certain techniques, the fault is with the exponent and not with the style. In other words, the fault is not that there are no such techniques in the style, but that the exponent does not know about the techniques.
Both Northern Shaolin and Southern Shaolin are extremely rich in kicking and hand techniques as well as in felling and gripping techniques. In fact, there are more hand techniques in Northern Shaolin Kungfu and more kicking technques in Southern Kungfu than all the hand techniques and kicking techniques in all the other martial arts put together! You name a hand technique or a kicking technique from any other martial arts or any other kungfu styles, and you can find it in both Northern and Southern Shaolin Kungfu.
For example, the continuous jabs and hooks in Western Boxing, and the neck grabs and jumping downward elbow strikes in Muay Thai are also found in both Northern and Southern Shaolin as continuous punches (sometimes called comet punches), horn punches, double dragon claws and double tiger claws, and standing elbows. The frontal thrust kicks and reverse round-house kicks of Taekwondo, and the sweeping kicks and sideway knee strikes of Kick-Boxing are also found in both Northern and Southern Shaolin as testing kicks, hanging kicks, whirlwind kicks, and shuttle kicks.
On the other hands, there are many hand and kicking techniques in Northern and Southern Shaolin that are not found in other martial arts. Some examples of these hand techniques are monkey grips to the groins, praying mantis hooks to trap the opponent's arm, crane beaks to the throat, reverse leopard punches to the spine, Some examples of these exotic kicking techniques are swaying lotus kicks, dragonfly kicks, the deadly organ-seeking kicks and the famous tiger-tail kicks.
Hence, if you wish to practice a complete martial art that enables you to use both your hands and kicks effective in fighting,you can practice any style of kngfu, including Northern or Southern Shaolin. Of course you have to pracice genuine, traditonal kungfu. If you merely practice external kungfu forms as gymnastics or dance, you would be unable to use them for combat even though they contain hand and kicking techniques.
It is true that flashy kicks like the ones Bruce Lee demonstrated in his celebrated movies are not used in Wing Choon,,but this does not mean Wing Choon Kungfu is lacking in kicks. These falshy kicks are not used partly because Yim Wing Choon, the founder of the style, found them unbecoming for a lady, and mainly because although these kicks may be spectacular to watch in movies, they put the attacker in great risk in real combat. If someone were to use such flashy kicks on a Wing Choon master like Sifu Yip Man, who was Bruce Lee's Wing Choon teacher, the kicker would be in serious trouble.
Kicks are effectively used in Wing Choon Kungfu. The thrust kick, for example, is often a combat-decisive technique. Leong Chan, the sigung (teacher's teacher) of Yip Mann, and who was known as the Wing Choon Kungfu King during his time, was famous for his kicks. Once he was to fight another famous master in a public match, and Leong Chan, in a rare occasion, was unsure of victory.
His sisook (teacher's junior kunfu brother), Leong Yi Thai (who was the First Patriarch in the lineage of Choe Family Wing Choon, the style of Wing Choon I practice), happened to pass that place on his opera tour. Leong Yi Thai told Leong Chan that he would show him during his opera acts a combat-ending kick to defeat the other master, which Leong Chan did. This combat-ending kick is “Lin Wan Thuei”, or “Continuous Kicks”, executed by giving a false kick (which could be real if the opponent fails to defend) for the opponent to respond to, and when he does, followed by a second kick. This “Continuous Kicks” is a signature technique in the Shaolin Flower Set.
Yim Wing Choon herself was famous for her kicks. Her favourite kick, which was often her combat-ending technique, was called “Kheun Lui Thuei”, or “Inside-Skirt Kick”, so called because the kick was executed inside her skirt. A local bully wanted to marry her, and brought his whole troop of bandits to her house to force marriage.
Yim Wing Choon made a deal with him. If he won in a public fight, she would willingly become his wife, if he lose he would call her god-mother. In the combat, Yim Wing Choon tricked him to close in to attack, and in his unexpected moment, executed the “Inside-Skirt Kick” which broke his shin, with him not knowing where the kck came from. He kept his promise and frequently brought gifts to his god-mother, way after Yim Wing Choon married Leong Phok Khow, who learned Wing Choon Kungfu from his wife and taught it to Wong Wah Poh and Leong Yi Thai.
The styles in Kung Fu are very confusing. While Praying Mantis, for example, is considered a northern style of Shaolin, there are also Northern Mantis andSouthern Mantis (which are different). Wing Choon is southern, Eagle Claw is northern, Monkey Style is generally northern, and so on. But even in each of them one finds variations of southern and northern.
It is confusing only to those who do not know the history and philosophy of the styles. To those who know, it is very clear.
Praying Mantis is a syle derived from Northern Shaolin, and has all the characteristics of a northern style, like extensive kicking techniques and long stances. Southern Praying Manits is a different style and was derived at a much later time from Southern Shaolin. It is also called Choo Family Praying Mantis, and has typical features of a southern style like elaborate hand techniques and shorter stances. An informed observer can easily tell which is which by merely watching a performance of their kungfu sets or their exponents in combat.
Wing Choon Kungfu is a typical southern style. Tell-tale features of northern styles like jumping about, high kcks, swinging arms, extensive movements, penetrating stances, palm strikes and hook hands are noticeably absent in Wing Choon Kungfu. It is not only easy for an informed observer to tell Wing Choon Kungfu from any northern styles, it is equally easy to tell it from other southern styles like Hoong Ka, Lau Ka, Pak Mei and Choy-Li-Fatt.
Eagle Claw is northern, although except for its eagle claw techniques, many of its features resembles those of southern styles. There are actually many styles of Monkey Kungfu, such as Monkey Style, Tongbeiquan, and Tai Sheng Moon. All of them are northern styles although Monkey techniques are also found in southern styles.
It is only logical that there are southern features in northern styles, and vice versa. A kungfu style is not one invented for the pleasure of classification-lovers, but has evolved over time according to its practial needs. If a nothern style master found a southern feature effective, he would use it and gradually the southern feature would be incorporatd into the northern style. The master wouldn't say, “It's a southern feature. Keep it out so that our style can remain pure.” On the other hand, he would not simply incorporate any features for fun.
Normally once a style has been established, it will remain intact, because it is already complete and there is no need to incorporate anything from outside. It is only now, when most kungfu practitioners do not know how to use their own styles for combat, that they shamelessly incorporate Kick-Boxing and other non-kungfu techniques into their styles, putting their styles in great danger of loosing their very essence.
Can you please comment on the difference between northern and southern systems regarding combat effeciency? Which are more vicious and can win any other style in real combat? Please without any offence, give me specific names of complete styles.
Both Northern systems and Southern systems are effective in combat. But there are discernable differences in their combat application. Northern systems generally use kicks, mobile footwork and long-range movments more often, whereas southern styles use hand strikes, stable stances and close-range techniques.
As stated above, this does not means that northern systems do not have hand strikes, stable stances and close-range techniques, or southern systems do not have kcks, mobile footwork and long-range movements. It is just a matter of preference. As an analogy, American English uses words like “truck”, “gasoline”, “fantastic” and “go ahead”, whereas British English uses “lorry”, “patrol”, “not bad” and “come on”, but all these words are found in both versions of English and both are very effective languages.
All kungfu styles are complete, have vicious techniques, and can win any other style in real combat. Since giving you specifin names of complete styles is naming all the styles in kungfu, I would give some examples of lesser known but equally combat effective kungfu styles as follows — Ba Ji Quan, Liu He Ba Fa, Ji Quan, Yin Qing Men, Li Ka, Mok Ka, and Hap Ka.
On the other hand, most non-kungfu styles are incomplete! Withot any offence, here are some examples, which may surprise many people — Western Boxing, Judo, Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, Wrestling, Muay Tai and Kick-Boxing. If you kick a Boxer, lock the arm of a Karateka, or throw a Taekwondo exponent, for example, irrespective of how many years these practitioners have trained, they would not have any techniques from their own arts to counter these attacks. This does not necessarily mean they would be unable to counter these attacks. They could but they would have to use techniques borrowed from other styles.
This also does not mean that a kungfu exponent will necessarily beat a non-kungfu martial artist. In fact today the reverse is more often true. The pathetic situation of kungfu today is that most kungfu exponents are likely to be beaten by most exponents of other non-kungfu martial arts. How can this be so when all kungfu styles are complete whereas most non-kungfu styles are not? The reason is actually straight-forward, though many may not realize it and those who do, lack the courage and honesty to admit it. The reason is that most kungfu practitioners today, including many masters, do not know how to use their kungfu techniques for combat, although many of them can perform kungfu techniques beautifully in solo demonstration.
This has led many kungfu practitioners, includng many kungfu masters, turn to non-kungfu systems for combat application. Some of them have actually become very formidable fighters usng non-kungfu techniques. This in turn leads them to question whether kungfu can be used for fighting! Bruce Lee was the most celebrated example.
I have read your book,“The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”. I understood that there is no definite Shoalin Kungfu. Praying Mantis, Eagle Claw, Tiger Claw, Monkey and Drunken Kungfu are all styles of Shaolin. Yet my Wing Choon sifu says that,these are not Shaolin styles, but only derviatives of the Shaolin style. Please explain this point: What is the Shaolin style?
Shaolin Kungfu is definitive, although there may be many versions of it due to its very long history as well as extensive spread. For example, the Shaolin Kungfu practiced during the Tang Dynasty was different from that practiced during the Qing Dynasty many centuries later, and the Shaolin Kungfu practiced in North China was different from that practiced in the South many thousands of kilometers away. But we can readily tell that it is definitively different from other styles of kungfu or other systems of martial arts, say, from Taijiquan, Baguazhuang, Karate, Kick-Boxing or Wrestling.
We can consider Praying Mantis, Eagle Claw, Monkey Kungfu, Drunken Kungfu, Hoong Ka, Wing Choon and Choy-Li-Fatt as Shaolin styles. We are equally correct to consider them not as Shaolin styles but as deviatives of Shaolin. Both views are correct, though depending on our particular point of reference, one view may be more appropriate than the other at any one particular time.
Let us take an analogy. The following of my disciples, Dr Kay, Dr Daniel, Dr Otte, Zhang Wuji, and I myself are Chinese. But using another reference point, we are not Chinese (we do not hold Chinese passports, for example), but ofsprings from the Chinese race. Dr Kay is Canadian, Dr Daniel is Belgian, Dr Otte is Dutch, Zhang Wuji is Singaporean, and I am Malaysian.
My own kungfu training is an illuminating example. When I first learned from Uncle Righteousness, whose real name was Lai Chin Wah, he called it Shaolin Kungfu. But when my classmates founded a school to honour our master, they called it Hoong Ka. When I learned from my second master, Sifu Chee Kim Thong, he called it Shaolin Wuzu, though most of my classmates just called it Wuzu. When I asked my third master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the name of the kungfu I was training in, without any hesitation, he told me it was Shaolin.
This happened to be a time when discussion on whether a style was Shaolin or Shaolin derivative was popular. So I elaborated and further asked what particular Shaolin derivative style it was. My Sifu thought for a while, then said, “Ours is genuine, traditional Shaolin (”Siu Lam Cheng Choong“ in Cantonese, ”Shaolin Zheng Zhoong“ in Mandarin), directly from the southern Shaolin Temple. But if we persist on derivatives, we may call it Hoong Ka” (though I found it distinctly different from the “Hoong Ka” I earler learned from Uncle Righteousness).
When I learned from my fourth master, Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, it was clear we practiced Wing Choon, though my Sifu told me that its full name was *Siu Lam Wing Choon“ (Shaolin Wing Choon), sometimes called *Choe Ka Wing Choon” (Choe Family Wing Choon) because it was previously taught exclusively in the Choe Family only, and sometimes “Pan Choong Wing Choon” (Opera House Wing Choon) because our First Patriarch, Leong Yi Tai, transmitted the art from a “red boat”, i.e. a huge boat housng an opera team.
When I founded the Wahnam school to promote these wonderful arts, I would not attempt to be smarter than my masters, Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, from whom the school was named to honour them. My masters called our arts Shaolin, so I followed.
Now, what is the Shaolin style? For us in Shaolin Wahnam, the answer is very simple. It is the style directly from the Shaolin Temple, transmitted to us by the last of the real Shaolin monks when the two southern Shaolin Temples, one at Quanzhou and the other at Nine-Lotus Mountain, were burnt down by the Qing Army. The two great Shaolin monks were the the Venerable Jiang Nan who initiated our Ho Fatt Nam lineage issuing from the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou, and the Venerable Chee Seen who initiated our Lai Chi Wah lineage issuing from the southern Shaolin Temple on the Nine-Lotus Mountain.
Other masters may have other answers. The most widely accepted criterion for the Shaolin style is that it came directly or indirectly from the Shaolin Temple in the North on the Song Mountain in Henan Province, or in the South at Quanzhou and also on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, both in Fujian Province. When the transmission was direct, it would be called Northern Shaolin if it came from the Shaolin Temple in Henan, and called Southern Shaolin if it came from the Shaolin Temples in Fujian. When the transmission was indirect, it would be variously called, usually named after a characteristic feature or its most prominent master, such as Shaolin Praying Mantis, Shaolin Eagle Claw, Shaolin Hoong Ka, Shaolin Wing Choon, and Shaolin Choy-Li-Fatt. As time passed, it may be shortened to just Praying Mantis, Hoong Ka, etc.
Is it true that a master is measured by his force or chi? But to be a real kungfu master, does it mean to studyonly one system deeply,or study different systems?
In principle it is similar to asking whether it is true that a rich man is measured by his wealth. The answer is usually yes, but may sometimes be no.
In combat the decisive factor is usually not how many techniques one knows, but how much internal force he has. Internal force is a function of chi, i.e. the bigger the volume and the smooth the flow of chi, the greater is the internal force. Hence how great a master is in combat is often determined by how much internal force and chi he has.
On the other hand, there may be other considerations. While it is usual, it is not always that the decisive factor in combat is internal force. By a skilfull use of techniques, tactics or strategies, a master may beat an opponent who has more internal force.
More significnatly, it is not the only reason for kungfu training. If a master has a lot of internal force and is a formidable fighter, but his personal and public life is a mess, he constainly suffers pain and injury, and is angry at himself and other people, not only he is not great, he has wasted his time in training.
Can you please tell me the ages of people that can practice the internal energyQi gung (chi gung) and nei gung?
— Ali, USA
In theory there is no age limitation in the practice of chi kung or nei kung. In other words anyone of any age can practice.
Nevertheless, a good age to start chi kung is about 10. It will greatly improve both his sport as well as intellectual performance. Unless he is alredy a practitioner or he has a good memory, someone over 60 may be too slow to follow chi kung instructions.
The above are only rough guidelines. There are students below 10 and above 60 who have very good results.
Nei kung, which means internal arts, is the same as chi kung, which means arts of energy.
Recently I heard from my friend that most instructors teaching Taijiquan only taught the movement and not Qi. He also mentioned that Taijiquan utilized the 5 different elements of Qi, namely Jin,Mu,Shui,Huo,Tu. Is that true?
— Leong, Singapore
It is true that most Taiji teachers not only at your place but all over the world teach only external moements of Taiji forms, but not qi nor combat application. Taijiquan is an internal martial art, but there is nothing internal and nothing martial in most of the Taiji taught today. Worse, the external forms they teach not only lack balance and elegance, they are also harmful instead of beneficial to health. A majority of Taiji practitioners today, ironically, have knee problems and back pain.
Most Taiji instructors and students today do not understand even basic Taijiquan principles on physical movments, like differentiating yin-yang and movement from the waist. Their knowledge and experience of qi and combat application would be worse or non-existent.
Many Taiji teachers, including those who are world-known, have gone to the extent of saying qi is not real and Taijiquan techniques cannot be used in combat! You can verify this statement if you make a search on the internet. If you go to our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum , you can find Taiji teachers (of course not from Shaolin Wahnam) denying the existence of qi and advocating the use of Boxing and Wrestling for combat because Taijiquan was ineffective! This indicates what a pathetic situation Taijiquan has degraded into.
“Jin”,“Mu”,“Shui”,“Huo”,“Tu” are the Chinese terms for “Metal”, “Wood”, “Water”, “Fire” and “Earth”. They refer to “Five Elemental Processes” or “Wu Xing”,which unfortunately have been ms-translated as “Five Elements”, and this ms-translated term has become established. Actaully they are not “elements” in the sense of minute substances with form, they are “processes”, and are without solid form.
While qi in any great kungfu styles, including Taijiquan, may be classified into these five elemental processes — like qi from the lungs is symbolized as the methal process, from the liver as the wood process, from the kidneys as the water process, from the heart as the fire process, and from the spleen as the earth process — this philosophical term is traditionally not used to describe qi but to describe footwork movements in Taijiquan, namely moving forward, moving backward, remaining in the centre, moving to the left, and moving to the right. Together with the “eight basic patterns” — namely, ward off, roll back, press in, contact, grip, spread, elbow, and support — they form the basic “Thirteen Techniques” of Taijiquan.
I wish to learn authentic Taiqiquan and not just the movement. Please give me your good advice on how I should go about learning this art.
Naturally I would ask you to learn Wahnam Taijiquan from a certified Shaolin Wahnam instructor . Many people who have no exposure to what Wahnam Taijiquan is like, will understandably attack us for being arrogant, but we sincerely believe it is closer to the traditional Taijiquan practiced by past masters than most of the Taijiquan practiced today.
Alternatiely I would advice you to search for authentic Taijiquan yourself, and I shall give you good advice on how to go about it.
First you need to know what authentic Taijiquan is, and is not. It is an internal martial art. Hence, any art that is not internal, for example, its practitioners merely talk about internal force and have no experience of it, and is not martial, for example, the practitioners cannot use Taijiquan techniques for combat, is not authentic Taijiquan. It is actually so simple, yet it is simply amazing that so many practitioners vehemently insist that theirs is suthentic Taijiquan when they use weights and sandbags to train force, and Boxing and Wrestling techniques for sparring.
Secondly you should find out whether the teacher is teaching what he claims. He may say that he uses Taijiquan for combat, but when you see that he asks his students to put on boxing gloves and bounce about, you would know he does not teach what he claims. Thirdly you should see whether his students exhibit the benefits that authentic Taijiquan is purported to give. If you find that a lot of his students are aggressive or sufer rom knee injuries, then you would know something is basically wrong in their training.
- What is a Martial Art — Sifu Marcus Santer
- Zen and Tao — Sifu Anthony Korahais
- Taijiquan Class of 2006
- Counter against Thrust Kick when Hands are Held
- Experiences at Special Shaolin Kungfu Course
- The Spirit of the Monkey
- Golden Dragon Shoots Pearl